Interview with Allyson Latta

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Great Dane

is what Manchester City's Kasper Schmeichel's dad Peter Schmeichel was affectionately known as. That and probably Manchester United's greatest goal keeper. It looks like that greatness runs in the family because Man City's young goalie was the star of the show today against the Gunners. Man City didn't get any balls into Arsenals net but Schmeichel prevented a hell of a lot of goals against Man City's. Arsenal had hundreds of chances to score but just couldn't get the ball past the rugged Danish goalie. The play of the game though was when Arsenal were awarded a penalty kick, hmm, funny how they always manage things like that, Fabregas looked more than confident when he hammered the ball and certainly joined the rest of his team in looking stunned when Schmeichel easily saved it. Stellar. Fabregast got his revenge in the 80th minute and walloped the first goal against Man City since the beginning of the season past the disappointed Schmeichel. One out of say ten, sure isn't bad. Not to be outdone, in the dying minutes of the game Schmeichel joined his team in the Gunner's penalty box and almost headed a corner kick into their opponents net. Then ran back to the other end of the pitch to pick up his post. That's some well-rounded player. They lost 1-nil to Arsenal but under the leadership of the infamous Sven-Goran Eriksson and with the 'Other Great Dane' in net, Manchester City's future look's quite bright.

Speaking of bright futures, oh, guess who is at the top of the standings now - here's a hint - Chelsea!! Hurrah!

Monday, August 20, 2007

To Bet or Not To Bet...

That is the question.

With the NFL season just around the corner, I'm sitting on the fence - Do I rejoin the football pool, play Proline, both, one or the other, neither? Last year was the first year I joined a pool. I was excited, full of hope. Then found myself on the edge of the couch, fingernails in mouth, desperate to cover the spreads - to win the weekly pool. All in all I discovered it took the pure joy out of watching the games. Week after week, I stressed over the spreads, studied US Today's Friday NFL pages, the weeks I went the other route and simply went with my gut, still I came up short. One week I tied with some guy and we split the winnings. It was not satisfying. I joined a pool to alleviate my previous year's obsession with Proline. Thinking that it would still satisfy a need to compete and be able to really get involved in the season more so than just being a passive yet passionate observer. Proline just about killed me. I'm no stranger to obssessive behavior - it's the highs and lows that feed my craft. However what I discovered about Proline was that the thrill was never realized, no matter how knowledgable I became and I rarely enjoyed the weekend games because I was too concerned with my picks, never letting the little slips of paper out of my sweaty, trembling hands. One Sunday I had to attend a christening. I didn't want to go. Shoved past the burly guys in the Seven-Eleven to grab my pencil and spreads sheet, ignoring their scrutinizing stares and attempts to peek at what I was scribbling down. I arrived late to the christening and during the reception that followed I kept leaving and coming back a little more agitated than the previous time I disappeared. A concerned relative approached with a glass of wine and asked if I was okay. I nodded, grabbed the wine. She leaned close to me and asked if I had taken up smoking. Smoking, I said, God know. And I asked her why. She stepped away from me. Well, you keep on leaving, she said, anxiously, like a smoker. Like a smoker, she said, or worse. Worse, I thought. Downed my wine, then choked, choked because it hit me and the laughter rose up from my gut before I had a chance to swallow the wine and I slapped my knee then her back and she started laughing without knowing why. I'd been leaving to run to the radio in my car to check the football scores, my Proline ticket. I never told her the truth, it may have seemed like the something worse.

This year, I think I'm going straight, no betting. It'll kill me, but I want to get back to observing the purity of what's unfolding on the field. I want to be unaffected by what I think and allow the outcomes not to bring me down. This year I don't want to start my week, which is always Tuesday this time of year, feeling like a loser. Because there's nothing worse than having 9 out of 12 teams correct on a ticket, or lose the weekly pool by 1 to a dame that doesn't even like the sport. This way I can concentrate on the Colts, the progress of other team's new coaches, players, revel in the unpredictable nature of the game, drink my beer and relax.

Next year, I might befriend a psychic.

Friday, August 17, 2007


I have always wanted to like the Bills. There is something about them, great players, superb coaching staff - what happens to them? I talked to a pal of mine today, a Bill's fan. He told me that the Bills were playing a pre-season game tonight. Great, I said. Oh, I don't know, he said. What, I said. It's the Bills , he said.

I froze for a minute, just a minute, then it all came very clear to me. My eyes widened and I said, "dude, I know what your team's problem is."

He cocked his head and he said, "Oh, yeah?"

And I said, "Yeah. It's the fans."

And he said, "what?"

I stopped listening to sports radio because of the Buffalo Bill's fans. They are/were the most unloyal fans a team could have. Like picking a daisy - we love you, we love you not, we love you, we love you not - the adolescent love of the team is, well an adolescent love of the team. The team is great, has the potential to be great and when I listen to the radio, to the guys I work with, the well-buts, the excuses, it dawns on me that this team's problem lies not in its merit but in its support.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ready, Down, Set...

I know, I know most die-hard NFL fans say they don't bother with pre-season games. Then who makes up the roughly 60,000 fans filling the stadiums during these games - movie extras? Granted that by the third quarter when the third string players are hitting the field more and more empty seats appear, but really who doesn't sneak a peek at the game at some point during its duration. For me it's even to hear the voices of my favorite commentators; the eloquent Al Michaels, vivacious John Madden and the Monday Night crew with good ol' Tony Kornheiser, full of his usual wit and vault of obscure knowledge and the newest addition to Monday Nights the funny, intelligent, knowledgable and articulate Ron 'Jaws' Jaworski, held together by the solid commentary of Mike Tirico. So it's not just what's happening on the field that excites me about the burgeoning NFL season but what goes on from the broadcast booth during the game and in the pre-game shows. All the drama, personality,and wisdom coming from above.

I can't help but watch the pre-season games to get that pre-season glimpse at the fellows I've come to know and love throughout the years,even if they are pacing the sidelines or relaxing on the bench, be it Manning, Brady, Hasselbeck, Alexander, Reggie Bush, Champ Bailey, Pennington, Harrington - whose presence I'm looking forward to seeing more of this season. And the new breed, even if none of these players who get a taste of the game in pre-season ever set foot on the field again, it's exciting to know whose hiding in the wings, and reassuring based on the nature of this physical game. I lasted through most of the 49ers vs Broncos game. The speedy 49ers with the return of Alex Smith appear to have a very promising chance this year. Thus far it's been the most exciting game to watch.

The bottom line is it's almost here, the countdown to the season opener is under way. I've stocked up the beer fridge, the snacks, I'm strengthening my vocal chords, reading up on my rosters and stats and placing Kleenex on the coffee tables because the incredible shit that happens during an NFL game - 80 yrd touchback returns, last minute interceptions, Brett Favre moves, Peyton Manning moves...damn-well moves me to tears!

How do we ever get from February to now?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lady Sings The Blues

Well a 3-2 win over Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge was a great start today for Chelsea - they have not had a home defeat in the Premier League for 63 games. And even though they were without John Terry, Frank Lampard donned the skipper's armband and they were out of the gate with flying colors - a sign of things to come, no doubt.

I suppose I was a bit premature in saying that I thought this year would be Rooney's pinnacle one for Man U. Poor kid hurt his ankle and limped off the pitch against Reading today. Despite the bevy of other great players remaining, I was a little underwhelmed by the match. The bottomline, I really wanted Reading to win.

Arsenal beat Fulham much to my chagrin and Liverpool beat Aston Villa. Well, at least Chelsea made a victorious debut. Here's to the blues.

My heads been in Spain the last little while though. I'm immersed in a brilliant biography of Pablo Picasso, thrilled about Henry leaving Arsenal for FC Barcelona and of course my favourite wonder kid starting this year for Barcelona along side Henry and the boys - Giovani Dos Santos. They play in the friendly the Franz Beckenbaur Cup this Wednesday against Bayern Munich. Another mid-week fixture on the 15th, Chelsea play Reading. This time I do not want Reading to win and will be singing for the Blues.

Speaking of singing the blues and running with the bulls, Toronto FC's 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls was a tad of a hammering. Altidore was in fine form today for the Red Bulls scoring two goals against the rattled Toronto club in the second half, adding on to Juan Pablo Angel's first half stunner. The red card only added insult to injury.

Ole! The fun and games has just begun!!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Like being woken from the dead, last night's chance channel flicking that landed on the pre-season game between my team the Indianapolis Colts vs the Dallas Cowboys brought all my senses alive. What a feeling! There they were my boys led by their man Peyton Manning. Though he wasn't playing when I finally discovered the game he held court on the sidelines just as effectively as on the field. Ah, the burgeoning NFL season. In that realm of things, only one other thing exhilarates me as much - the other football season - the Premiership, and it gets underway tomorrow.

There's nothing like waking up to Saturday morning football on the telly. The sound of the crowd, the commentary, the players, the play - ah, it brings back so many weekend morning memories for me - hard boiled eggs on a bun, tea and football. Tomorrow's games aren't as significant to me as Sunday's. Except of course Aston Villa vs Liverpool, Villa being the last English side my dad Graham Leggat was affiliated with as coach of the youth side before we packed up and left for the Toronto Metros here in Canada. Villa will always hold a place in my heart because at one time they too were part of our family.

Sunday my club Chelsea open against one of my Dad's other old clubs, Birmingham, and the last place I lived prior to hopping the Atlantic. As the season unfolds you'll see how every team ties into my upbringing in one way or another. I don't hold much of an allegiance toward Birmingham despite the family connection and I get the feeling that even though Chelsea played relatively well against Man U the other day, that they'll be in fine form Sunday against Birmingham City and should have no trouble beating this side. Especially to prove something after three of their penalty kicks were saved by Man U's stellar goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar. I don't think that's ever happened before, not even by ex-Liverpool and England's old national team superstar goalie David Seaman, who personally I thought was great.

Sunday, the dreaded Manchester United play Reading. I think Man U will crush Reading. Too many superstars, so much adrenaline, fire, the list goes on and on. Unfortunately for the rest of us, I think this will be Rooney's pinnacle year, which is frightening. As a team, they are always frightening - bastards. Speaking of which, the same day the Gunners take on Fulham, the real family team for us, next to Aberdeen and Scotland International, many a Craven Cottage story has been imbedded in these ears, in this heart. I wish my Dad was playing for them Sunday. Can't help bringing to mind the time he scored three goals in three minutes for Fulham, still holds the hat trick record, granted that game was against Ipswich on Boxing day in 1963, not Arsenal, one of the teams, like Man U, that I was born to loathe, despite liking many of their individual players along the way; the now departed Thierry Henry for one. Losing him, another strike against Arsenal as far as I'm concerned. (My cousin Paul's a supporter so for that I try to make allowances!)That said, I hope Fulham crush Arsenal on Sunday, and that the ref is on Fulham's side.

Ah, the history, the comaraderie, the football life - both of them. It's been a long dry off-season, even though the U-20 tourney was superb - hail the oasis, the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

I spent the last week in New York City visiting family, roaming the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, seeping up inspiration from President Street to Carnegie Hall and spending my evenings with a cold beer bought from the corner store working on new writing. My feet ache but my mind's rejuvenated.

[An aside, I was hoping that New York's Red Bulls would have been playing while I was there, but no such luck. Altidore and the dudes were in between games. In a couple of weeks they'll be playing against the L.A. Galaxy, I'll be interested to compare scenarios.]

After spending hours in MoMA moved to tears by Jackson Pollack and beyond tears to the metaphysical by Picasso's work, I had an overwhelming sense of a real melding of passions and self. And it was in the first paragraph of Patrick O'Brian's biography of Picasso that I picked up at the MoMA bookstore that summed it up for me. He wrote, "For even the strongest individual is indelibly marked by the culture in which he is brought up; even the loneliest man is not an island; and even Picasso carried his cradle with him to the grave. 'A man belongs to his own country forever,' Picasso said."

Now, what is she talking about, you may be asking yourself. So how shall I put it. When it comes to art it's in me, when it comes to football, it's in me. Part of my culture, my heritage, how I was brought up. And football certainly is its own culture; a lifestyle, not unlike being a writer, it's a way of life, just part of who you are. So when the Los Angeles Galaxy came to play Toronto FC today in Toronto, it should have been about two clubs, the city's club, the city. Football was the working class sport, work all week for the game at the end of it, the reward, the outlet, the comaraderie, and respect for the players, and the sport. Today's excitement could have begun in a pub prior to the game with your mates, your team's colours segregating you from one side of the pub to the other, or depending on the rivalry separate pubs altogether, discussing the game, the players, the possibilities, the standings, the stakes. And the fact that one of England's great players is now part of the Galaxy is a really exciting factor. Beckham is exciting despite the hype, his hollywood celebrity - he's a great footballer. If you respect the game and its players to have Beckham over here in the MLS is huge. Some may say he's past his prime, well yeah, most players are at his age, that's why they make a move such as this, but he's no less great when it comes down to it. The fact that he's not fit, is part of the game, there's no shame in it. He's still part of the team. And I must say that for ninety minutes of play the most exciting moves in today's match were by David Beckham; composed and well-dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red tie he strode across the pitch and took his seat on the bench. His facial expressions intensified as the game commenced, hands held to his lips, eyes steely and darting, feet sockless and agitated like they were playing, brow furrowed, observing and pondering every move made during the nil-nil match. The football savvy and panache that injured Becks exuded from the bench was far more exciting than what happened on that field. To watch a player who knows the sport from the inside out, from birth, watch a game as it's being played can teach the critics, the boo-ers, and even the good fans a thing or two about being a great footballer, and teammate. "For even the strongest individual is indelibly marked by the culture in which he is brought up; even the loneliest man is not an island...'A man belongs to his own country forever.'" I think because of all that we're pretty lucky to have him over here, on or off the bleeding pitch.