Cazorla and Arsenal try to cash the Cech.
Archive for September, 2012
Last year, soccer player David Testo became the first active male professional athlete in North America to come out as gay.
He told about his life in the closet in astonishing detail for Leander Schaerlaeckens’ SB Nation feature Out of Bounds, which came out today.
[Editor's note: I was able to speak with Leander throughout his process of writing the story. His passion for getting it right and making sure it was perfect to his specific view of how it should be told came through in abudance.]
Some commentary on the piece by the author below.
TSG: Leander, what’s the background on this story getting told and take us through what the story meant for you to tell.
Schaerlaeckens: This is easily the longest I’ve both pursued and worked on a story.
I first reached out to David in the weeks after he came out last November. I was going to write it for ESPN.com. He was keen but by the time he was coming to New York for a gala, he’d been so overwhelmed by media attention that he’d sort of run out of energy for interviews. We played phone tag for a few days and then decided to shelve it for a little while. In the spring, when the hubbub had died down some, we talked again and he said he still wanted to do the story. I’d left ESPN by then and pitched it to a few places and got an especially keen response from Best American Sports Writing series editor Glenn Stout, who was heading up SB Nation’s new Longform section.
The opportunity to work with him was hard to pass up. So I went to Montreal for three days and David and I talked most of each day. We developed a closeness that I hadn’t anticipated. His story was so very personal, and he was telling it so honestly, that it quickly stopped being interviewer-interviewee and just became two guys talking about life. That’s the place they tell you to get to with interviews but you hardly ever achieve. It also meant that I became closer to the story than I probably should have been.
But, more than anything, it made me want to get it right.
And to tell it warts and all. David was clear that he was doing this in hopes of helping others who might be in a similar predicament. As he said in the piece, “I wish I’d had someone like me.” And I thought that was the best way to achieve it. I would have done him or his story no favors by dulling the edges of his experiences. So in some places it’s quite harsh and that was hard to do. There were a lot of times where I wondered if I was taking it too far. I was relieved to get a text from David earlier today saying he was happy with it. I’ve always tried not to care what my subjects think about my story but it’s hard not to. We’d all like to be liked. And especially in this case, where you’ve essentially become somebody’s biographer, you just hope to be accurate.
This was an important story to me. As a Dutchman I like to think I come from a slightly more tolerant (or is it indifferent?) society than the one I now proudly call home. I grew up thinking gay was okay. I’ve had fascinating discussions about how rare this is with my wife, who is as liberal as I am but went to a tough urban high school in New York where it was decidedly not. Some of my mother’s closest friends are gay. So to me it was natural. And a part of me remains appalled that not more athletes feel they can be themselves openly. If this story makes one gay athlete feel better about him or herself, I think David and me would both be ecstatic with how all this turned out.
Steve Fenn seeking to normalizing club abilities as the campaign closes.
The 2012 MLS season has reached a point where every playoff-realist (save Supporter’s Shield favorite San Jose) is to some extent dependent on the clubs around them for their final seeding. Some matches mean decidedly less to one of the combatants than they do to those closest to their opponent in the table. This was the case in Sunday’s biggest results, where Colorado’s draw with Vancouver and Philadelphia’s win over Houston were enormous outcomes for Dallas and Columbus, respectively. This dynamic will be echoed whenever an essentially-eliminated club squares off with one in the conference top 6. Given the closeness of so many of the top 6 in both conferences, this interdependency will likely be a major variable going forward, and strength of schedule could be a huge determining factor in these races.
To gauge strength of schedule, we can look at the goal differential (GD) of everyone’s opponents, weighted for home field advantage. Doing so is relatively easy once you calculate the average home vs away score in MLS this season, and tack that goal differential onto every matchup. The average score this season has been Home 1.60 vs Away 1.07, so I adjusted every matchup plus or minus 0.53 goals based on location. Here is the current MLS table by points per game, with the first two tiebreakers (goals scored and GD) per game, and strength of schedule per game:
Keep in mind that strength of schedule is that club’s remaining opponents’ average GD, adjusted for location. The clubs with the lowest number have the easiest path. The differences here should partially shape numerous tight races for seeding within the top 6 of both conferences. Houston and Columbus will face two of the three easiest slates the rest of the way as they jockey for the last Eastern playoff spot. Out West, Vancouver has the easiest schedule and FC Dallas has a difficult stretch. If the red stripes and/or the Whitecaps don’t defy home field expectations, FCD’s solid recent run may only leave them as one of the best clubs to miss the postseason this year.
Is 4-6 matches too small of a sample for strength of schedule and home field advantage to accurately predict stretch run outcomes, though?
For comparables, I looked to leagues in Europe with respectable (if not MLS-level) parity, who are very early in their seasons. Ligue 1 has played 6 matches thus far and the English Championship have played 7. I calculated home and road goal differential per game for the 20 French clubs and 24 English clubs in those leagues. Of those 44 clubs, only four had GD away from home, with nine other clubs at zero or slightly above in their home advantage. It has to be noted that this does not take strength of schedule into account, and more exhaustive studies would have to be performed to reach any definitive conclusions on short-term home advantage.
However, all the surface facts point to LA Galaxy, DC United, and FC Dallas being at a significant disadvantage to their closest competitors based solely on their fixtures between now and the end of the season on October 28th. They will have to buck the odds in order to avoid disadvantageous 4th and 6th seeds in their conferences. Of course, the game isn’t played on paper and it’s certainly possible one or two of them will overcome, but the circumstances of their schedules can’t be overlooked when evaluating likely outcomes for the remainder of the season.
All eyes on Brad Friedel this weekend as the American at Spurs; not Clint Dempsey.
(TSG will publish on an abbreviated schedule this week. The hamster needs some R&R in the Mentawaiian Islands.)
Real vs. Manchester City the headliner today. Can someone please build either one of those Schwarzanegger soundboards for Jose Mourinho quotes…. or at the least a language in Google Translate. Thanks, you’re the best technology.
And a preview from Leander Schaeklaeckens: “Money Looms over the Group of Death“
Stretch run MLS. Clint Dempsey is a Spur.