"Why are we discussing a handshake?!?" -- Steve McManaman (paraphrased on ESPN2)
Mercifully, as I sit down at my laptop Sunday morning the tiresome, Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez incident might finally be behind us, of course, until the clubs meet again next season. About 24 hours after the Uruguayan lightning rod snubbed the outstretched hand of the former French captain, he issued an apology to the Liverpool website saying he was wrong not to shake his hand -- most likely at knifepoint from the club's directors and sponsors after the Anfield image took a massive trip through the mud over.
Maybe we can all move on, because this sorry, sad incident has left everybody involved looking a whole lot worse, particularily Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish who had to spend months publicly backing Suarez after his alleged racial slurs on the field against Evra in a match last year. The tribalism of soccer in England, though, consider many Liverpool fans, even if its a small percentage, to think this is all some conspiracy against the club.
And from the files of two wrongs don't make a right, Evra -- the initial victim in all of this -- didn't come off smelling like a rose either, trying his best to incite a riot after Manchester United's 2-1 win on Saturday at Old Trafford by winding up the crowd.
Frankly this is as much as I really want to write about this whole scenario. Non-sports related controversy has always irked me. I remember back in 1994 getting up in the morning before school to watch "SportsCenter" (yeah, we did that back then) to watch college basketball highlights only to get months and months of the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan nonsense. Didn't understand the media frenzy then and now that I'm older the fascination and focus on the unsavory only angers me.
It's a shame, isn't it, that the amount of ink -- actual or digital -- wasted on the Suarez/Evra affair will pale in comparison to the best sports story of the year, well, aside from unheralded Jeremy Lin scoring 20 points per game during February NBA action -- Zambia winning the African Cup of Nations.
Part of me is grateful that (most likely) some of Liverpool's American(*) owners stepped in and got Suarez to finally accept some accountability for the incident in the first place, although he's never apologized for his alleged racial slur on Evra in the first place. At the same time, unlike John Terry, Suarez faced a tribunal of sorts, served out his eight game ban. He's been punished by the sport's ruling body. It's time to move on.
Suarez, not that he probably cares too much, is probably going to find himself, in certain quarters, thrown in the same bin as the Ty Cobbs of the world -- talented, great players with unsavory personalities although we don't know if the Georgie Peach ever bit an opponent. So be it. The Fenway Group had to do something since the club was suffering a massive public relations nightmare, plus they're probably stuck with Suarez because unless Marge Schott comes back from the grave to own a soccer team if they tried to sell him they'd take a massive financial loss, or what's know around Anfield these days as a "Downing."
(*) Again, imagine as an example if a member of the Red Sox used a ethnic slur against a Yankee and it got out. ESPN might implode on itself.
It's more discouraging that two men can't shake hands is a gigantic story. In a sense, writing even in this small slice of the blogosphere, makes the issue worse since it's helping to perpetuate it. I acknowledge my fault in this.
Then again, do we really want to talk about Liverpool's walking dead performance in the second half, prior to Suarez's late goal from a Terry-approved bad bounce off Rio Ferdinand in the closing minutes? Wouldn't it make more sense to praise the return to full fitness from Manchester United wide midfielder Antonio Valencia, who seems to have injected a newfound verve into the squad? Or that Jonny Evans played a very solid, error-free match? Or a fantastic match from Wayne Rooney with two classy finishes?
Nah, it's 2012.
Let's just talk, post and tweet about whatever will get the most eyeballs and pageviews, however untoward it might be. Hell, if Chris Brown can be feted by the RIAA with Grammys and a pair of performances on live television to all of America what chance does civility and dignity have going forward?
Singing and Praising the Blues:
So that'll be that on Landon Donovan Mach 2.0 at Everton. Overall the record with Donovan in the lineup for the Toffees was only two wins, three draws and two losses in Premier League action (two FA Cup wins, though), however the two wins he played a role in came against Manchester City and Chelsea. Even if the ceiling of Everton this year is a last-gasp run at a Europa League place, the club is certainly better off with Donovan and its a shame he couldn't finish out the year with the club, instead of coming back for those all-important MLS regular season games in March, April and May. (Hey, when do the Galaxy play Chivas USA, that's almost as good as the Merseyside Derby, right?)
As much as a personal loss it is for Donovan, David Moyes and Everton are in the tougher spot since Donovan was basically a ball-tease. Everton got used to his smart passing and high-energy play for two months, then he departs back to SoCal.
Saturday at Goodison Park, Chelsea were the team that could have used a little injection of life as they sleepwalked to a 2-0 loss. The Blues are still in place for a Champions League spot, but now behind Arsenal for fourth place on goal difference. Chelsea's woes are well documented, so no sense rehashing them.
Chelsea do at least since have Napoli coming up next week in the Champions League, but if Andre Villas-Boas team gets knocked out it'll again be Armageddon at Stamford Bridge -- and probably daily stories of a Roman Abramovich/Jose Mourinho reunion.
Oh the beauties of modern life. Tottenham put forth its best display of the season, throttling Newcastle United 5-0 at White Hart Lane behind the two-pronged attack of Emmanuel Adebayor and Louis Saha ... only for my Fox Soccer cable feed to become pixelated beyond the point of watching it. What are the odds that of the 500 channels I get, one of the seven I actually watch shits the bed during the small window when said channel actually has stuff on it worth watching? Really, you couldn't knock out CSPAN or CNN or Oprah's channel?
Tottenham is a club that tends to look toward the doom-and-gloom, but Spurs are seven points off first compared to a 10-point gap over Arsenal and Chelsea for fourth and fifth.
Oh and there's a little thing called the North London Derby pending at the Emirates when Premier League play resumes on Feb. 26.
In the end, Thierry Henry's return to Arsenal wasn't much more than a nostalgia trip, but hey, I'm as guilty as anyone in loving nostalgia. Hell, the whole season, with Paul Scholes back in the mix is one big trip down memory road.
Maybe that's selling the return of TH14/12 a little short. He did bag a late winner for Arsenal vs. Leeds in the FA Cup. His goal Saturday -- perhaps one of his most graceless ever -- got the Gunners three massive points vs. Sunderland on the road, pushing them back into fourth.
The story isn't completely written, either, since he could feature vs. AC Milan in the Champions League (reminder, write down the name Stephan El-Shaarawy).
Around the League:
Wolves finally sacked Mick McCarthy after its 5-1 loss at home to rival West Brom. Atrocious result, but the club thinking it'll find some retread manager on the scrap heap who will be able to save them from relegation is silly logic. ... Manchester City stayed in first with a 1-0 win at uninspired Aston Villa, which loses Richard Dunne for two months. Maybe a good thing. ... Fulham beat Stoke City and got a debut goal from Pavel Pogrebnyak. Russians, for whatever the reason, have a terrible track record in England. ... Second worst result of the weekend was Bolton losing 2-1 at home to last place Wigan. Poor Tim Ream. ... Blackburn Rovers beat QPR 3-2, this sets up a pretty clear relegation five-team race with Blackburn, QPR, Wolves, Bolton and Wigan. Aston Villa, yes, are the club above that group, although seven points clear.
Fantasy Team O' the Week:
Longtime reader Drew Konig's "Will This Do?" put up 72 points this week with big hitters Adebayor, Rooney and Aaron Ramsey coming through.
Own Goal of the Week:
Sure, it went of Tomas Sorensen and ruled as an own-goal, still, hell of a strike by Clint Dempsey.
One Other Thing:
Can't say enough good things about the Copper Bullets triumph in Libreville, Gabon yesterday -- the site of the national team's fatal plane crash at sea in 1993. It's such a good story I won't even point out the penalty misses by Didier Drogba in regular time or Gervinho's cowardice in the shoot out.
Video of the Week:
So, it turns out the Illuminati's infiltrated of the rap game isn't just a great running joke by @FanSince09 on Twitter ...