Premier League Predictions 13/14 -Jeff

  1. Chelsea
  2. Manchester City
  3. Manchester United
  4. Liverpool
  5. Tottenham
  6. Arsenal
  7. Everton
  8. Swansea
  9. West Ham
  10. Sunderland
  11. Cardiff City
  12. Fulham
  13. Aston Villa
  14. West Bromwich Albion
  15. Crystal Palace
  16. Norwich City
  17. Southampton
  18. Stoke City
  19. Newcastle United
  20. Hull City

 

Being new to the world of soccer fandom (and even newer to the world of soccer analysis and prediction,) I had a lot of struggle points here. First of all, the top three—at least for me—are interchangeable. I’ll defend my homerism of Chelsea finishing first by saying that I believe Chelsea have the best midfield in the league in terms of talent—Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Moses, Schurrle, Van Ginkel, de Bruyne, Ramires, Lampard, Luiz, Essien, Mikel, are you kidding me?!—but also in depth, as witnessed by the vast number of names listed above. Additionally, I think that there’s a chance that Chelsea will have the best defense in the league, again through depth and talent—Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Bertrand, Cole, Luiz (at times)—there appears to be enough to sustain a high level of performance, and Petr Cech remains a world class talent in goal for the Blues. With so much going for them in the defensive and middle thirds of the pitch, Chelsea appear poised to finish top three, regardless of their striker situation.

But that’s not to say that Manchester United and Manchester City don’t have their merits. The signings of Manuel Pellengrini have been particularly good, especially that of Jesus Navas who, I believe based on what I’ve seen of him in the Confed. Cup, will solidify the right wing position for City and greatly improve their attacking play. Manchester United should finish high based solely on the fact that they won the league last year and not much has changed. I put them third based on what I saw from them in the Community Shield—Rafael’s injury could prove costly depending on how long he has to recover and regain fitness, and the fact remains that the midfield wasn’t very impressive. With the caveat of it being his first big match in a United kit, I didn’t think Wilifred Zaha was impressive. He was losing possession, getting bossed around a bit, and had some errant passes in his debut, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll adjust to Premier League opposition.

Arsenal have fitness issues at present and, despite the perpetual opposition I receive to this stance, I really like the way Liverpool were playing toward the end of the season last year between Coutinho, Sturridge, and Suarez. Granted, Suarez may leave, but if he does, I believe Rodgers will bring in a good talent as another striker and Liverpool can pick up right back where they were. (Just please keep Sturridge in the middle of the pitch.)

The middle of the table seems fun to watch and, while also interchangeable, I feel more comfortable about than the top three. I look forward to watching a team of Everton’s quality under a manager like Roberto Martinez. Swansea have been doing a lot of good things since they came up, and I don’t look for huge improvement, but incremental. Sunderland may become my favorite team to watch for the sake of entertainment, and Cardiff appear to be a club poising themselves to finish well in their first year in the top division.

I’m interested to see how West Brom will respond to not having Romelu Lukaku this season, because if they don’t make a move, I don’t know where exactly the goals will come from for them.

I tip Stoke, Newcastle, and Hull to go down (but Hull to do so gracefully) although I’ll be interested to see if Newcastle can develop chemistry among the French Contingent to find a way to stay up.

And just for fun, here are the teams I expect to come up from the Championship:

  1. Reading
  2. Millwall
  3. Watford

Premier League 13/14 Season Predictions – Bo

1. Manchester United
2. Chelsea FC
3. Manchester City
4. Tottenham Hotspur
5. Arsenal FC
6. Liverpool FC
7. Everton FC
8. Norwich City
9. Sunderland AFC
10. Swansea City
11. Cardiff City
12. Aston Villa FC
13. Southampton FC
14. West Bromwich Albion
15. Fulham FC
16. West Ham United
17. Newcastle United
18. Hull City Tigers
19. Stoke City
20. Crystal Palace FC.

United have a strong side once again this season and it’s difficult to see David Moyes doing much to hinder that. If they can pick up a midfielder, say Fellaini, they’ll be just about a complete side. It was difficult to choose the runner up as both Chelsea and Manchester City have improved this summer. Mourinho, along with his stars back from loan will make up a team that might have the deepest bench in the league. City have outfitted their midfield nicely, only second to Tottenham who have had one of the best summer transfer windows in the league. Even if they lose Bale, which they haven’t yet, they’ll not likely be pushed out of a top four spot again. Arsenal, failing to sign any of their targets this summer, will still pose a threat, especially now that Giroud has had more time to acclimate to the Premier League.

The middle of the table is tricky, but expect Sunderland, Norwich (who may have had the best transfer window out of anyone) and Cardiff to make big splashes this year. West Brom will take one of the biggest dives in the table after losing loaned Lukaku back to Chelsea. Without really strengthening too much it’s difficult to see Newcastle working their way out of a relegation battle as well. They’ll stay up, but their safety will come down to the last few weeks.

Finally, it’s hard to see Hull City or Crystal Palace (who have lost their best player in Zaha) staying up. Cardiff are miles ahead of both teams in talent and spending ability. They’re a club built for the Premier League, while the other two will outdo themselves if they stay there.

It will take some time for this table to settle. It could be one of the most competitive years the Premier League has ever seen. There have been a lot of changes to teams and management over the summer that could lead to one very exciting season.

Breaking Down Biogenesis – What’s Really Going On? -Jeff

It is the unfortunate truth that some stories gain so much traction that the core story is lost in the flurry of analysis that comes as a consequence. For example, how many people know exactly what happened in Egypt when the mob threw out the president? How many people know what actually happened in Benghazi?

Everyone seems lost in the aftermath of the Biogenesis scandal, and now we are so deep into the analysis of the suspensions and the what-happens-now that the “what-actually-happened?” can be lost on the typical reader.

So let’s track back for just a little while and go over what this Biogenesis thing really is.

What is Biogenesis, anyway?

This is kind of like asking “why is the Watergate scandal called Watergate?” And just as in the Watergate scandal, Biogenesis is a reference to a location. Biogenesis was an anti-aging clinic in Miami (it has since been shut down) that reportedly provided performance enhancing drugs such as HGH to athletes of many ages, from the professional ranks to high school athletes. It was run by a man named Tony Boesch, so anytime you hear that name, know that it is a reference to the owner of Biogenesis.

What happened?

It’s pretty simple, really—players went to Biogenesis for their drugs. Manny Ramirez was suspended in 2009 when he tested positive for HCG (a female fertility drug, I don’t know how that’d be performance-enhancing, but that must be embarrassing) and in the recent investigations was linked to Biogenesis. Melky Cabrera, who served his suspension last year (and the Giants won anyway…) was also linked to Biogenesis. Basically, Alex Rodriguez and every other name you see as suspended for 50 games was linked to Biogenesis as the supplier of their PEDs.

How were they found out?

Here’s the funny thing—of every player recently suspended, none of them have failed a drug test. Rather, they were found out by records provided to Major League Baseball by a man named Porter Fischer. Fischer was an investor in Biogenesis who was promised a return on his investment. He was given one payment, but none after that, and for a prolonged period of time. He used business records linking Major League Baseball players to Biogenesis, knowing that it would come back on both parties, as collateral. When he wasn’t paid, he released records—receipts, text messages, and other various documents—to Major League Baseball investigators. All the names suspended were found in the records.

If they didn’t fail a drug test, how could they be suspended?

The JDA has a section which states that players can be suspended for the possession of performance-enhancing drugs. Since the evidence against them was pretty damning, every other player with the exception of Alex Rodriguez accepted their suspensions without appeal, even though they never failed a test.

Why is A-Rod’s suspension so much bigger?

Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games. His suspension is a little more than four times everyone else’s, and that’s because it’s a special case. A-Rod had some of his people try to purchase the documents that linked Biogenesis to him, which is tampering with MLB’s investigation. This goes against the CBA, which also affords the commissioner power to suspend the tamperer.

What’s all this talk of appeals and arbitration – what’s it all mean?

Alex Rodriguez is appealing his suspension. Basically, he’s doing it so he gets to keep playing, because he’s going to be suspended irrespective of what happens. At this point, it’s all about delaying the inevitable and determining whether the punishment Bud Selig set forward fits the crime that A-Rod committed. Being a part of the union affords A-Rod the right to appeal his suspension and take his case to an independent arbitrator. If you’re unfamiliar with legal terms (I don’t blame you,) an arbitrator is a third party that objectively makes a judgment given all of the evidence and all of the legalspeak. Basically, what he’ll be looking at is what exactly Rodriguez did, and whether or not Selig has the power in the CBA to put forward such a harsh suspension.

When will that happen?

Most people think it’ll happen in November or December, so A-Rod will get to finish out the year before the suspension is implemented—a suspension that will likely end his career solely based on his age and how much (or how little) he has left in the tank. Games for which he is suspended are unpaid, by the way.

Note: there is lots of talk about the Yankees hoping to get out from under his contract. They may get lucky enough to not have to pay him next year, but at the same time, Rodriguez’ gargantuan contract was mostly frontloaded, meaning he got most of his money at the beginning of the contract. It’s still a lot of money the Yankees owe him, but not as much as it would have been in years 1-4 or so of the contract.

Will The Pirates Contend? (Revisited) -Jeff

It’s the most prominent narrative of the 2013 season: just who are these Pirates? Are they really this good? Is this the year they finally break the curse and finish .500?

A few months ago I wrote a piece examining this very issue. At that point, they were 33-20 (.626 winning percentage) and such a small sample was hard to believe. Now we are nearly 62% of the way through the season, and the Pirates still sit 18 games above the .500 clip. Now that we have a bigger sample, let’s revisit the question.

To finish under .500 the Pirates would have to go at best 24-42. That’s a .363 winning percentage. To put that into perspective, that would equate to getting swept 6 times and splitting every other series (which is, granted, a mathematical impossibility since a three-game series cannot be split.) That would equate to a win drop off of 23 percent (the Pirates current win percentage is 59.)

Now, is that possible? Yes. But is it likely? No. Here’s why:

The Pirates enjoy 31 more games in front of their home crowd, where they currently win 64% of their games. That amounts to 20 more wins, and if things hold up on the road, 20 out of a possible 37 wins. According to their record, the Pirates should enjoy 40 more wins to finish the season 96-66. Factor into that the strength of their schedule, and it seems more and more likely that the Pirates will finish with a contending record.

The Pirates play 6 series (20 games) against clubs in the NL West, which collectively has a meager 47.9 win percentage. If that number holds, the Pirates will win about 10 games, but if the Pirates’ 59 win percentage holds, it’ll be 12 wins (not accounting for home and road records.) Additionally, the Pirates play 19 games against other sub-.500 clubs (the Cubs, Marlins, and Brewers.) Since the Pirates have played fairly well against teams with records above .500, it seems this may hold up.

Additionally, there’s the incredible pitching. It’d be easy to think that it’s a fluke, but we’ve come this far, and it hasn’t yet regressed. The Pirates boast the best team ERA in the major leagues, and after 94 games, that’s no accident. Perhaps the most telling thing, however, is the strength of Pittsburgh’s defense. They have a defensive BABIP (batting average on balls in play, subtracts home runs and strikeouts and readjusts batting average on balls that are in play) of .266. For an individual player, BABIP testifies more of luck, but as a team, this indicates they close down gaps and control the game defensively. Even if this falls to league average, it would only go to about .295, where the Indians and Cardinals—two teams above .500—sit.

Mathematically, the cards seem stacked in favor of the Pirates. With consistency and a little offensive luck (the Pirates at the moment have little to boast about on the offensive side) the Pirates appear poised to contend in what may be the best top-3 division in baseball. I once heard a man say that when the playoffs begin, you find out what teams are for real by their pitching and defense. Well, we already know how good the Pirates are in those divisions. So don’t get your hopes up yet, Pirates fans, but maybe, just maybe…

I Think I Would Like Soap Operas – Bo

When I was little I spent summer afternoons with my grandma. Every day she would turn on “Days of Our Lives,” “As the World Turns,” and a variety of other mid-day dramas. I would always sit with her during these times, my nose buried in a Gameboy. The passionate outbursts of wronged lovers were little more than background noise as I vanquished the forces of digital evil. I’ve never actually paid attention to any soap operas, but if I’ve learned anything from watching sports it’s that I would probably love them. Why?

                The drama.

                Who didn’t love the playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat? Sure there was good basketball, even if Derrick Rose rode the bench the entire campaign, but what was so captivating was the tension that descended upon the court like distant, ominous clouds on a sunny day before a predicted tornado. I tuned into every game to see if Joakim Noah would finally reach the tipping point and deck someone, anyone. Players were quick to show that every foul was an affront to their personal character, every reach-in was an attempt to draw blood. It was fantastic. I’m not advocating violence in sports; I just know how to appreciate it.

                But summer is here, and while the sun is staying out longer and barbeques are becoming routine, it‘s the down time for sports. Baseball is doing its part, but the task of keeping an entire nation of fans fully supplied in athletic drama is a massive. A-Rod and the Yankees’ GM have both been working overtime to compensate for the drama drop off and for that I am grateful. A-Rod recently tweeted that the doctor had cleared him to be able to play again. In an incredible act of selflessness, seeking only the favor of the media-starved public, general manager Brian Chashman responded, “You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, we will. Alex should just shut the *bleep* up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”

                Superb, but it isn’t enough.

                So where do I turn in times like these? Where do I go to find that melodrama I have become accustomed to during the major sporting seasons? I go to the same place every other fan goes to, trade/transfer rumors.

                If I can’t watch athletes play I at least want to talk about them and their potential career changes that could either be catastrophic or miraculous. Tim Tebow to the Pats? Geez, the Pats are so dumb. Tebow should just go to the Canadian league, right guys? Right? I mean…Tebow?! Oh, and Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are washed up, aren’t they? I heard LeBron wants to go back to Cleveland and play with Kyrie Irving. And, AND, I also heard that they’re picking up Nerlens Noel too. THAT’S the new big three. What do you guys think? Guys? FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD, WILL SOMEONE JUST PLEASE TELL ME WHERE JAY-Z IS GOING TO HAVE KEVIN DURANT PLAY NEXT YEAR?

                Out of every sport I follow soccer is perhaps the worst when it comes to potential transfers. “So-and-so is in advanced talks with so-and-so” is a mantra that’s usually repeated in the press for weeks before anything (or nothing) is revealed. “So-and-so isn’t going anywhere this summer. He’s finishing out his contract here,” is another one that typically precedes an announcement that a player has been sold. For example, recently, Manchester City and Argentine striker, Carlos Tevez, was sold to Italian giants, Juventus. As I scrolled through my twitter timeline I saw a reputable source post that talks between Manchester City and other clubs had broken down and that Tevez would be staying at City. Not three tweets further down the timeline another source broke the news that terms had officially been agreed for a $17 million transfer.

                Transfer and trade rumors are a circus. They’re fun to look at and to contemplate, but you wouldn’t want to spend your life absorbed in them. It may sound enticing to sit at your desk and follow breaking stories of athletes’ relatives telling journalists their family member is “close” to a new deal with another team, but pretty soon you’re sleeping on the stuffed animal prizes and eating discounted lunches from the corndog stand. Be strong, fall is coming.

Spurs and Heat: Individual Player Grades -Jeff

Thursday night, we witnessed the Miami Heat win their second straight NBA championship, winning 95-88 over the San Antonio Spurs in an exciting game 7. It was a big moment for LeBron, who seemed to turn on the jets starting in the fourth quarter of game 6 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for himself and his team.

Now that the team accomplishment is finished, I’d like to presently reflect on the individual performances that make up the whole. The format of this analysis will be like this: a grade will be given for that player (the starting five for each team and two bench players.) Then, an outlier will be identified (since most players seemed to have an exceptionally good or exceptionally poor game, see Danny Green in games 3 [great] and 7 [poor]) and the grade will be adjusted for the outlier. Grades will be based on statistics as well as the “eye test,” what I saw from each player. This is mostly subjective, and there is no fixed formula to determine a grade.

 

San Antonio Spurs

Tony Parker

Grade:  B-. In game 1, I was convinced that Tony Parker was the best player on the court. Through the whole series, he was attacking the rim and playing hard, and I thought he played decent defense throughout. The reality was that, for the most part, the Spurs went as far as Tony Parker took them. He scored 14.25 points per game in their losses while he scored 17 per game in their wins (including game 3 in which he only scored six points, mostly because they didn’t need him to stay on.)

Outlier Game: Game 2. Parker scored 13 points on 5-14 shooting, had five turnovers, no steals, only five assists. Not the most Tony Parker-esque of games.

Adjusted Grade: B+

Manu Ginobli

Grade: C-. Ginobili’s standout game was game 5, in which he posted a double-double with 24 points and 10 assists. Aside from that, he played as you might expect a 35-year-old who has been hampered by injury would play. He was fairly average, didn’t shoot particularly well and didn’t do a whole lot to contribute on defense. The Spurs needed more from Ginobili, but one may question if he had all that much more to give. For all the praise Ginobili receives, keep in mind he is a career 15 ppg player.

Outlier: Game 5. He was simply lights out, as was previously stated.

Adjusted Grade: D.

Tim Duncan

Grade: A. The only reason it’s only an A is because I need room to give him an A+ after taking out game 2. The man is phenomenal, and watching him play, you question if he’s aged a day in his 15-year career. He played an exceptional series, posting double-doubles in five out of the seven games. He’s a presence in the defensive and offensive low post, and Duncan provides the intangibles that you rarely see from other players (remember when he was yelling at Gary Neal to shoot the ball because the clock was running out, and Neal banked the three in? He should have gotten an assist for that play.) He approaches the game in such a quiet, professional manner, knows the game inside and out, encourages his teammates, corrects them, and expects a lot from himself while still delivering a lot. I don’t know if I’ll remember seeing a greater all-around player in my generation of the NBA, and I don’t know if a player on the losing team has ever put in such a phenomenal performance. I will be singing the praises of Tim Duncan for a very long time.

Outlier game: Game 2. Duncan scored only 9 points on 3-14 shooting but still grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss. Fortunately for the Spurs, Popovich recognized a lost cause and sat Duncan for a big portion of the game. He played only thirty minutes in the loss.

Adjusted grade: A+. I think I’ve said all I need to say.

Kawhi Leonard

Grade: B+. Quick aside on Leonard: I am a huge fan of his (so this may be a bit of a homer grade.) I think that his development playing with Tim Duncan is blantantly noticeable in his equally professional approach to the game and his ability to handle himself and the game in a smooth manner. I think that it’s easy to forget he’s only 21, and I think he’s contributed more to his team than any one-and-done. That said, he was a solid contributor on both sides of the floor, averaging a double-double and posting them in four of seven games. My main criticism of Leonard would be his defense on the wing—I noticed him getting burned a few times by quick players like LeBron and Dwyane Wade, but in the post, he played very well, and played efficiently on the offensive end. I also thought he did well to eat a lot of minutes in the final two games, and I don’t think that he was the reason for them losing those two games. He seems to be in great shape.

Outlier Game: Game 2. Should we just throw this game out the window for all of the Spurs? He wasn’t especially good offensively, and shot under .500 for the second of only three games all series.

Adjusted grade: A.

Danny Green

Grade: C+. He has to be the hardest man to grade. What do you do for a guy who posted very good, efficient games in the first five, but then all but disappeared in the last two? Who shot 65% from three in the first five, and then 18% in the last two? But since this is about individual performances, I think C+ is the most fair thing I can give. It’s like when you pass your first five tests in a class with flying colors and bomb the last two. A C+ reflects exactly what you did: nailed it the first few times, and killed it the last couple. He played well, but really didn’t do much other than score, but even that he didn’t do all that much.

Outlier game: Game 7. I debated between this one and game 3, and I think it’s a toss-up, except that he was almost as good in game 5 as he was in game 3. But when I was watching game 7, there were times when I really forgot he was on the court. He couldn’t find any space, couldn’t buy a bucket, and didn’t do much defensively. I’ll give him some grace for that (although I’m tempted not to because of his almost-equally-poor game 6. Whatever.)

Adjusted grade: B-.

Gary Neal

Grade: B. He did what he was supposed to do. He’s no world-beater, but off the bench he is a solid 10 PPG contributor. My main concern with Neal is that statistically, he appears to be neither distributor nor attacker. For a point guard, he seems to play a role more like a spot-up shooter, which is not what you’d expect for a 1-guard, but maybe what you’d expect from a guy whose skill set fits a 2 guard, but size favors the former.

Outlier game: Game 3. I hate to be negative here, but 24 points is definitely an outlier from Gary Neal (he also recorded personal series-highs in rebounds and assists, with three and four, respectively.) It simply defies the averages more than any other game.

Adjusted grade: C.

 

Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade

Grade: B+. Wade was a silent killer in these finals, surprisingly. His statistics defy the eye test, because watching the series, I remember (with the exception of game 4) him not appearing to be much of a factor. But he kept scoring, kept stealing, and kept blocking (those tend to be Wade’s abnormally normal ways of contributing defensively, and always have been.) He’s faded from the spotlight with the emergence of LeBron James, but he has continued to play very well.

Outlier game: Sorry, can’t find one. He was good.

LeBron James

Grade: A+. What can you say for a man who continues to play the best basketball of his career, shoots a lot and shoots well (44.5% in the series,) distributes the ball, plays on all parts of the offensive half, driving and shooting threes, posts two triple-doubles and three more double-doubles, locks down three or four different players on the defensive side, blocks shots and rebounds the ball better than almost any other 3? The man is a machine. He plays endless minutes and plays them exceptionally well.

Outlier Game: Game 3. Just wasn’t LeBron at his best. Didn’t score much (but still rebounded a lot) nor did he distribute all that well (only five assists.) still, he was good.

Adjusted Grade: A++, if that’s really a thing.

Chris Bosh.

Grade: C. I wanted to rip Chris Bosh a new one here, and there is a reasonable argument for doing that (namely, what he contributes compared to LeBron, while they make the same amount of money.) But when I look at the statistics, they—like with D Wade—defy the eye test. I think Bosh was more of a factor than I’d care to admit, while from my twitter I was trying to trend #tradeBosh. I didn’t think he was very good, but four double-doubles do merit some sort of credit. I didn’t think he was very good defensively, as Duncan’s scoring bears out, and he continues to struggle offensively as he prefers to play by the elbow and a little further out than Spoelstra plays him, and in addition, you could see his teammates tearing into him for setting screens at the wrong times.

Adjusted Grade: I want to do this less on an outlier and more on a principle—the man is making as much as LeBron James. When you score 20 in your best game and LeBron scores 15 in his worst, what does that tell us? It tells us you’re not what you should be. If you subscribe to this, I’m willing to call Bosh a D+ type.

Mario Chalmers

Grade: C-. I struggle with Chalmers, too. But for me, he’s a starting version of Gary Neal, scoring about the same amount (except less) in a lot more minutes. He neither distributes much nor does he score that much. I didn’t think he was particularly good in this series.

Outlier: Game 3. Spoelstra got him the heck out of there after 4 fouls, four turnovers, and no points in 20 minutes.

Adjusted grade: Ehhhhh, C.

Mike Miller

Grade: C-. I know that’s mean, and I should probably give him more credit given how few minutes he played. Also, in trying to separate individual performance from team performance, I find this at work: Miller’s best game was game 3, when he was a perfect 5-5 from the field, but he was in as a consequence of his team being so horribly behind. It’s hard to separate that. The reality is, over 65 minutes in games 4, 6, and 7, he didn’t score a lick.

No adjustment necessary.

Ray Allen

Grade: B-. I especially appreciated Allen’s occasional aggressiveness—at age 37—to drive to the hoop and score some good layups. Defensively I thought him poor, but he contributed well and efficiently on the offensive end.

Outlier: Game 7(I guess.) he didn’t shoot much, didn’t contribute much.

Adjusted grade: B.

Shane Battier

Grade: B. I thought Battier was vastly underused, as evidenced by his scoring prowess in game 7. He played well in limited minutes, scoring 5.6 ppg in about 12 minutes per game. He, unlike Miami’s other spot-up shooters like Allen and Miller, provides a defensive spark as well, rarely being burned and always keeping a hand in the shooter’s face. He did well.

Didn’t play enough to be adjusted.

Why I Won’t Be Attending the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – Bo

The nation of Brazil is currently the epicenter of the sporting world. This summer it’s home to the FIFA Confederations Cup, a tournament held every four years between continental champions around the world. Think of it as a warm up to the World Cup, which begins next summer, also in Brazil. Fast forward two years from that and the Olympics will kick off in Rio de Janeiro. These three competitions draw athletes and fans from all over the planet and produce crowds and television viewers in record-breaking numbers. The strain of hosting these three massive competitions in four years would be difficult for any nation, but Brazil, a nation that has just recently made massive strides in bringing clean water to smaller communities, faces an overwhelming challenge.

        There are several obstacles the South American nation must overcome if it is to be ready for the massive influx of people next summer. The first, and most damaging to efficiency, is the lack of highways connecting major cities. Actually, saying that there aren’t highways connecting these cities is partially untrue. The framework for the highways is present, but there are long stretches that have yet to be paved and not in working condition to handle large amounts of traffic, something that will be happening on a consistent basis next summer. Since the World Cup consists of 64 matches, the competition has to be spread out across the country to accommodate the month-long time frame of the tournament. This means a lot of traveling for a lot of people. We take highways for granted here in the United States, but remove this streamlined form of travel and there will be a lot of angry soccer fans missing the beginning of their matches. That’s not even mentioning the increased chances of accidents that amount of traffic produces. Incomplete stretches of road will compound that risk exponentially.

        Another difficulty facing Brazil is the construction of stadiums. While the country is known for its love of soccer and its many clubs, there are few stadiums in the country that can accommodate the number of people that will be attending the matches. Bigger stadiums are in the process of being constructed at the cost of about $2.2 billion, reports CNBC. This is normal for any country preparing to host such a large tournament, but Brazil seems worryingly unprepared considering the time frame. A recent partial roof collapse in one of the stadiums nearing completion does not bode well for the coming hour when the ground is filled to capacity. FIFA has been preforming their regular pre-tournament inspections but it’s difficult to see how these stadiums are passing. Even catching glimpses of the guts of the stadiums as players leave their locker rooms for the Confederations Cup shows the grounds are a ways from being finished. Safety is the main issue here.

        But perhaps most concerning of all are the riots currently plaguing the country. I use the world “plaguing” carefully here because I don’t condemn the reason citizens are protesting, just the method in which some of them are doing it. The protests began over an increase in commuter fairs and gas prices. Travel is becoming a serious expense in Brazil. As with any other type of protesting there are a number of other political and economic reasons thrown in the mix, not the least of which is increased unemployment. The dawn of the Confederations Cup is only fueling the fire of the protestors, and quite literally as they have taken to building barricades of burning tires at the entrances of the stadiums.

        Again, the reasons for the demonstrations are understandable, but some of the methods are going too far. Over one hundred people have been arrested in riot-related acts and police are frequently using rubber bullets to quell the crowds. Sympathy for the demonstrators’ motives hasn’t gone unnoticed by some very influential individuals, not the least of which are the players for the Brazilian national team. One of the strikers for the team, Hulk, was quoted as saying, “After seeing the people on the streets claiming for improvements, it makes me feel like joining them.” Citizens are saying that protests are increasing because the nation is spending so much money on these sporting events. An estimation of the cost of the Confederations Cup and World Cup alone shows Brazil shelling out $15 billion. That doesn’t even touch the billions that will go toward the 2016 Olympics which, historically, has been a competition that severely damages the economy of host cities after it’s over.

        I was excited when I found out the upcoming World Cup would be played so close to me. I began saving up two years ago for a plane ride down and tickets to a few matches. But now I’m reconsidering. Actually, scratch that, I won’t be attending. The threat of danger is one thing, and it’s very real. Brazil is a country going through a lot of turmoil in a time when a lot is expected of it. I don’t care to put myself in a situation where city streets look like a warzone. But my sitting out the World Cup goes further than that. Can I really justify participating in something that’s tearing a country apart? I’d like to see a poll of how many Brazilians actually want the World Cup in their country next year. Why is this being forced?  I can’t help but think that taking the pressure off this country by moving one or more of these competitions would do a lot of good.