June 6, 2015: Madison 56ers

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June 6, 2015
Detroit City FC 5, Madison 56ers 0
Cass Tech Stadium
DCFC  Cyrus Saydee (James Murphy) 32′
DCFC  Tyler Channell (James Murphy) 41′
DCFC  Will Mellors-Blair 66′
DCFC  Will Mellors-Blair (David Edwardson) 73′
DCFC  Matt Ybarra (Wade Allen) 90′
Attendance:  3,561

A new record crowd was treated to a blowout by the boys in rouge and gold.

At the previous home match against the Minnesota Twinstars, I noticed the immense crowd that paraded from Harry’s to the match.  I recalled that two years prior, at the Midwest Great Lakes Divisional Final against Erie, I positioned myself at the southeast entrance of Cass High School to video the march as it passed.  This evening I did the same.  It is a good measure of how much the excitement for this team has grown in such a short time.

This was July 14, 2013:

This was tonight:

Tonight Le Rouge paid tribute to the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL).  Since 1969, Detroit PAL has helped build character in young people through athletic, academic, and leadership development programs, including youth soccer.  During halftime it was Detroit PAL players who took to the pitch, for which the Northern Guard Supporters skipped their search for liquid refreshment and cheered the kids on as if DCFC were on the field.

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The jerseys worn this evening by the team were then sold at silent auction during the game.  For the first time, I scored myself a game-worn jersey, that of midfielder and University of Michigan player, James Murphy.  Very cool.

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May 31, 2015: at Lansing United

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May 31, 2015
DeMartin Stadium, Lansing, MI
Detroit City FC 1, Lansing United 3
LANS  Stephen Owusu 13′
DCFC  David Edwardson 44′
LANS  Jason Stacy (Matt Brown) 64′
LANS  Matt Rickard (Zach Pagani) 79′
Attendance, 1,319

Once again, the Northern Guard Supporters invaded the state’s capital, and took over the tavern where the Sons of Ransom – Lansing United’s supporter group – hangs out.

The match, however, did not go Le Rouge’s way.  David Edwardson’s goal in the 44th minute, a howler from well out, was worth the price of admission.  Staying and chanting and supporting our team until we were finally kicked out of the stadium was worth the trip.

There are a few obvious shots that may make you scratch your head.  At least they did mine.  With this new camera, I was playing with the settings and captured those shots.  They’re interesting, that’s for sure.

And that bubble soccer looks like fun.

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Badger #1

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Badger #1
Devil’s Due/1First Comics

I was toying around with the idea of a very heavy action strip about an avenger – a vigilante – and I wanted to have a logical foundation for his actions.  I thought, “What kind of character puts on a costume and goes out to fight crime on the streets?”  And the only thing I could possibly come up with is that you’d have to be stark raving out–of-your-mind to do such a thing.   – Mike Baron, Comics Interview #8, Feb. 1984

Batman was the first comic book hero that formed my childhood.  But when I went off to college, four titles influenced me the most:  Nexus, American Flagg!, The Question, and The Badger. 

Both Nexus and The Badger were written by Mike Baron.  Where Nexus was the serious science fiction, deeper philosophic title, Badger was a fun romp with psychotic characters.

Norbert Sykes, a Vietnam Veteran, POW, and martial artist, was abused by his step-father resulting in him suffering from multiple personality disorder.  One of those personalities is the animal-communing vigilante protecting the streets of Madison, Wisconsin.  While admitted to a mental hospital, he is visited telepathically by his neighbor, a John Doe who was found wandering Madison naked and uncommunicative.  This John Doe is Ham, a 5th Century Druid who, after being entombed and sent out to sea in 412 AD, wakes up in the 20th Century.  Through his telepathic communication with Norbert, Ham learns about the 20th Century from probably not the most reliable source.  Still, Ham forms a partnership with the Badger, along with Daisy Fields, their case worker at the hospital who becomes Ham’s personal secretary.  She sees Norbert as an interesting case study and person in need of healing (though Ham has use of the the Badger and hopes she does not succeed).  Together, they create chaos in dealing with capitalists and demons (at times, kind of hard to tell them apart).  His other personalities – inner-city African American Gastinau Grover DePaul, the high-brow Max Swell, nine-year-old Emily, Leroy the dog, and the homicidal Pierre – emerge at the most convenient, and sometimes inconvenient, moments.

The Badger ran from 1983 to 1991, its first four issues with Capital Comics, along with Nexus, and both making the move to First Comics when Capital went under.  The character has made a few one-shots and mini-series appearances since, the most recent in 2007 when IDW Publishing collected the first twenty-three issues in four trade paperback collections as well as a graphic novel Badger Saves the World.

Badger #1 (Devil’s Due/1First Comics, 2016) is a re-introduction of the character.  Mike Baron brings his creation into the 21st Century with Norbert serving in the fight against Al Qaeda.  The personalities are slightly altered – Max Swell now being a gay architect and Emily is a five year old girl.

The tone to this version of Badger is noticeably different.  The original series started off with Ham’s story and Badger’s introduction to Ham in the mental hospital, slowly learning more about Norbert as the issues progressed.  Here, it’s Norbert’s story with glimpses of his multiple personalities.  Though Baron brought Badger and Ham into the 1980’s with a tongue-in-cheek flair, today’s Badger has a serious tone.  Baron is sticking with the traditional Badger story line, but the snappy banter is chilled.  The prospects of its return appear in the final three pages.  Jim Fern’s art serves this mood well, and his single rendering of Ham in the final panel is diabolical.

New readers to the Badger need no knowledge of the past to get into this world.  As a long time fan, this issue felt awkward.  I found the way the original series slowly revealed Norbert’s backstory as the main story was in action engaging.  This issue felt too much like set-up for what’s to come.  Getting Norbert from enlistment to mental hospital felt a tad rushed.  But it won’t stop me from looking forward to seeing where Baron takes the Badger here in the 21st Century.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith

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Rock n Roll Soccer:
The Short Life and Fast Times of the
North American Soccer League
by
Ian Plenderleith

It was April, 1978, when the Detroit Free Press introduced me to Detroit’s new pro team, the Detroit Express of the North American Soccer League (NASL).

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I was a hockey fan growing up.  But hockey ran from October to May, which then left the summer sport-less.  I never got into baseball; the only cool thing about baseball was baseball cards.  So, I was intrigued.

WJR-AM covered eighteen of the Express’ games, while WXON-TV 20 broadcast six road games, including the team’s first two matches in Tulsa (2-1 win) and Fort Lauderdale (2-1 OT win).  I followed the team via radio, and caught some of the league’s games on ABC.  Then, this guy named Trevor Francis came over from the English National Team and the English League’s Birmingham City, and raised the level of excitement.  So much so, I finally talked my parents into taking me to the final home game of the season; a 4-2 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, with Francis scoring two and assisting on another.

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It was such a good time we went back nine days later when the Express eliminated the Philadelphia Fury 1-0 in the first round of the playoffs, on a goal by Trevor Francis (who else?)

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Ian Plenderleith’s book is not a detailed history of the league, but rather an analysis of its rise and fall, its innovations and dumb ideas, its players and management, and its effect on the game.  In today’s game, there are elements that were first introduced in the NASL.

For example, in order to encourage higher scoring, the league awarded the winning team six points, the losing team zero points, but both teams would receive a point for each goal they scored up to three.  A winning team could walk away, at most, with nine points, and the losing team could earn up to three.  If the match ended in a tie, a fifteen-minute sudden death overtime would be played.  If still tied, then a shoot-out would resolve the match.  Like the use of penalty kicks today in playoffs or tournaments to resolve a tie, five players on each side would face-off against the keeper in a shoot out.  The ball would be placed on the thirty-five yard line.  The keeper had no movement restrictions and the shooter had five seconds to move in and shoot on the net.  FIFA was using a two-point system for a win, one-point for a draw, with no bonuses for goals scored.  Eventually, FIFA moved to a system that awarded three-points for a win, with goal differential deciding ties in the standings.

Other innovations included the thirty-five yard line (then maligned by FIFA who eventually forced NASL to abolish it) to combat the offside rule; three substitutes were allowed in the NASL when the norm was two, which FIFA later adopted; names and numbers on jerseys was only found in the NASL, but is now universal; and targeting women as potential fans was a NASL innovation.  The NASL talked about eliminating the time-wasting tactic of the back pass to the goalkeeper, but FIFA wouldn’t consider it until the 1990’s, long after the league’s demise.

Of course, it was the people  – players and executives – that made the league memorable.  I found the section on Jimmy Hill, a general partner of the Express who was responsible for the arrival of Trevor Francis to Detroit, especially interesting.  Stories about Rodney Marsh and George Best, two players who knew how to entertain as well as play the beautiful game; about franchises in Hawaii and Las Vegas which brought interesting challenges; and about the league’s origin being a controversy between two rival leagues in 1967, demonstrated how the NASL planted professional soccer into the American landscape.

An analysis of the NASL would be incomplete without a comparison with America’s current professional league – Major League Soccer (MLS).  Even from its outset in 1996 when MLS proclaimed its adamant distinction from the NASL, Plenderlieth draws the similarities and distinction between the two North American leagues.

I found this an enjoyable read broadening what little I had known about the league while following the Detroit Express from 1978 to 1980.

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