Friday, February 6, 2015

CAN 2015--Goodbyes and Championship Pick

Dearest Mates,

2015Another Chapter concludes. Time for all of us to once more finalize those spreadsheets, set up Skype-appointments, and ensure that our mutual contact information is up-to-date. Our tiny world of football gambling, blitz-paced riffing, long-overdue re-connections, and general irreverence comes to an end.

To all my valued and treasured old friends: Know that the depth of our fellowship shall endure, even if it is yet again time to allow this website to lie fallow. 

It’s also time for your friendly bookie to engage in some of his trademarked obsequious gushing. He loves you, even if he seemed somewhat terse and impatient over the course of the last month’s proceedings. He’s still a “Bleeding Lionheart” who profoundly appreciates each and every last one of you.

Living a life centered upon valiance engenders all manner of inconvenient endeavors, impractical commitments, and insanely long thankless hours. It remains well worth it. Better than living the life of a mediocre professor. : ) As I’ve often written, live lionhearted or don’t bother living at all. It’s a vast, empty, and godless universe. Those not cognizant of this fact live their insignificant lives on the tenure-track. Hell with them.

Incredible tournament we all just witnessed.

A surfeit of draws over the initial two rounds left us with a full field heading into the final Group Stage Fixtures. In stark contrast to the Asian Cup (which featured a record number  ZERO draws over the first three rounds), this year’s AFCON  sported a record number of TWENTY-SIX!! Incredible. We all knew that Group D would end up a labyrinthine snafu after Gervinho’s tantrum, but the drawing of lots was most unforeseen and most unfair. Major sympathy is in order for Mail, who missed out on the Knockouts by the cursed short straw.

The Elimination Rounds brought us some epic matches. The feted “Congolese Derby” didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t quite as enthralling as the “Iraq vs. Iran” match, but it came damn close. All six goals were scored in regulation. Nevertheless, it was a pulsating affair. Cote d’Ivoire’s dismantling of the Desert Foxes was a pretty one to watch. Ditto the Ghanaian systematic destruction of those lucky Guineans. The “National Thunder” of Equatorial Guinea snuck by the “Eagles of Carthage” thanks to some appallingly bad officiating. Good for them. Karma eventually caught up.

We now look forward to a promising final between two Continental Behemoths. What a coda to close things out with! Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana kick off Sunday at 20:00 UTC +1. No wagers will be taken, but Syndicate Members can be expected to at least have the match running in the background whilst they wash the dishes ; )

As always, your “Neighborhood Betting Syndicate” was presented in a low-optic and low-key fashion. We don’t have any grand commercial aspirations around here. It’s merely about “friends and football”, just as it was nearly thirteen years ago when a forlorn kid from “Herzblut City” started the whole project in the LSU Computer Lab. The temptation to add glitz with a Youtube Channel or a Snapchat Account does exist, but it’s fairly safe to assume that the enterprise will resume absent all but a few minor extra bells and whistles.

Syndicate coverage of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is slated to begin on May 27th, 2015. In the intervening 110 days, ALL Syndicate Members who bet will receive a “Schwag Pack” after they settle their debts. This includes the 11 of you who insisted on rolling their WM 2014 balances over to the next tournament. Let’s all get square with the house before we embark upon what promises to be an epic tournament. It will work best if we can all begin with a clean slate.

At some point during the dormant period your friendly bookie plans a “Syndicate Re-Release” of some old hobby writing. Everyone deserves a break from the migraine-inducing green text that I superstitiously use for football blogs. (Recall that green is the color of the DFB. It MUST be so!). The old Hobby Writing Website your friendly bookie often touted turned out to be nothing more than a quixotic Pipe Dream, but we could all use a bit of extra fun as we get warmed up for this Summer’s event.

Not much else to cover, other than how unbelievably enjoyable “Goodbyes Sections” are to write. You really can’t imagine how delightfully gratifying these sections are. The happiest guy in the world hacks his keyboard to pieces writing these sincere posts. So it has been all the way back to the beginning. I’m very pleased to share some of my favorite compositions from the past twelve plus years.

From WM 2002—“The Humble Beginnings of a Syndicate”:

WM 2002To my dearest friends old and new,

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Sob. How sweet. Time for a swift walk around the block.

I can scarcely believe that within a few hours we shall have no excuse to talk to one another. What a tragedy! L 

A short month ago I found myself friendless and clinically depressed. Loneliness cuts deeper than any other adverse emotion, particularly when it descends upon an eccentric character such as myself. Contact buoys one’s perspective in so many subtle metaphysical ways. Hearing from every last one of you has kept me afloat…even those e-mails that respectfully indicated that the sender had no fucking clue what I was talking about. The World’s Game has brought us all together, and reminded a soul wandering astray of the undeniable importance of scope. 

Such a wide-open realm of possibilities we live in…wide as the perfectly manicured football pitches I’ve spent the better part of this summer staring at. The money is appreciated, but all of you have given me something that is impossible to quantify…you’ve once again revived my understanding of how incredibly large and complex this earth on which we all live is. Such a beautiful intricacy! Such a magnificent snafu! It’s filled with amazing people, all of whom I have privilege to know.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Waaaaaahhh! Can’t take it. Need another walk around the block. Why are we all so distracted? Why is our instinctual reaction to all the inner-torment to spread more misery around? What fucking good does it do to drag others down to the level of your insecurity via some petty protectionism? Why all the gossip, games, lies, exaggerations, and chest pounding? 

What precludes us from reaching out to one another in the spirit of good will and harmony? Sigh Since none of the questions posed fit the answer of “forty-two”, I confess to be thoroughly un-enlightened with respect to the deeper quandaries of the human race. Incidentally, should anyone be interested (which they’re likely not), these old “Goodbye” sections are excruciatingly painful to re-read.

The cheers echo all across this continent, through the heart of Europe, to the Southernmost tips of Africa and South America, all the way through Eurasia to the cradled islands of the Pacific Ocean. Great show, Lads. Bravo, boys. Gratitude to all footballers and football fans.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Anyone ever have the feeling that the theme from “Nobody’s Fool” runs on a constant uninterrupted loop in their head?

From EM 2004—“Revenge of the Syndicate”:

EM 2004 My syndicate brothers,

Another Summer of Revival and Rebirth arrives at its culmination. As a committed Atheist I must admit, much to my chagrin, that the events of the past four weeks oblige me to proclaim faith in two separate sets of Deities. It appears that we must accept the existence of the order of Mount Olympus. 

No other explanation suffices to explain how in the hell the Hellenes (80-1 odds prior to the tournament) are now one valiant miracle away from capturing the only continental title that matters.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

I would like to qualify that statement by saying that I now find the African Cup of Nations eminently entertaining. Africa is the only continent that holds a meaningful annual tournament, and it’s always a showdown between an unlikely Cinderella and an established power. This year Zambia astonishingly knocked off Cote d’Ivoire. The whole Endspiel was so gripping that my Internet connection gave out no fewer than fourteen times. Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Cameroon had previously fallen to the mighty three-peat Egyptian champions. Thanks to the Arab Spring, the Northern African football programs are all in disarray. 

This means we can all look forward to a few years of truly competitive African Football….maybe even a lighthearted Sportsbook courtesy of your friendly bookie JJ Before embarking on such an endeavor, I still must figure out what is consistently funny about Africa. You have my word that I’m on it J That being said, I insist upon laying down the law. Ahem. Africa and Europe provide the only worthwhile regional tournaments. Fuck your insipid CONCACAF Gold Cup. What shit could I possibly give about a tournament that will perpetually come down to Mexico vs. The U.S. Juniors? The Copa America never fails to escape my interest. The Asia Cup and the OFC Nations Cup put me straight to sleep. Viva Afrika! Viva Europa! 

In addition, I profess unequivocal conviction in the blessings of an eccentric group of pseudo-intellectuals known as “The Syndicate” “Summer’s gone, A Summer Song. I look at you and then I’m gone.” At I think those were the lyrics. The best I can do from hazy memories of being a flannel-shirt-clad young lad who foolishly thought that there was such a thing as an “Alternative Revolution”. I’ll miss all of you. I’ll think of all of you. I might even fantasize about the three female ones that came close enough to giving a shit about football that you wrote me. Great to hear from you, Ladies. J How about we engage in some wagers in subsequent times?

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Hahahaha. The infamous trio included two ex-girlfriends and one soon to be ex-girlfriend. In keeping with the essential spirit of respect, I shall not identify anyone beyond those with whom I’m so close that they should have seen it coming. “The Three” do, however, do justifiably deserve a smile and a wink. You were and surely continue to be very nice girls. No hard feelings on this side. 

It wasn’t your fault that your boyfriend was hopelessly crestfallen over some below-average expendable mare. There we are. Before getting into any more trouble, let’s expend some words on Vicey’s wretched pursuit of a proportionate soundtrack for his schmaltzy farewells. The preceding words were written to Jan Garbarek’s “Twelve Moons”, spinning interminably on the old trusted JVC “Multi-Bass Horn”. Back in 2008, the Economist devoted an entire holiday double issue to the reasons we love music. 

Bottom line? The notes stimulate certain unreachable dormant neural networks that would otherwise be inaccessible. Your mind contains over 300 Octillion separate neurons. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly the amount of grains of sand on earth or number of stars in the universe. Moreover, there’s very little you can do short of drinking yourself into a coma or snorting cocaine five times a day for fifteen years to kill them off. 

Merely because their not readily accessible doesn’t mean that you cannot gain passage through the proper stimuli. Music happens to be one of hundreds of thousands of incentives for you to infiltrate the dark recesses of your mind; the hitherto quartered offed and insurmountable barriers. I earnestly hope you allow your own personal melodies endow you with the license of penetrating your own impervious barriers. Now we’ll progress to the Top Ten songs that inspire me to write a proficient “Goodbyes Section”:

10) “Wake me up when September Ends” –Green Day
9) “My son” –Nubou Uematsu
8) “Dreamlover” –Faye Wong
7) “You’ll Never Walk Alone” –Die Tote Hosen
6) “X-mas card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” –Tom Waits
5) “The Blood of Eden” –Peter Gabriel
4) “Ask me Now” –Thelonius Monk
3) “With God on our Side” –The Neville Brothers
2)  “Soledad” –Pharaoh Sanders
1)  “Parce Mine Dominihe” –Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble

Thankfully a man named David Letterman popularized the Top Ten List. I, like every last one of you, would have been elated to present my Top 100 list. The former roommates even knew how to put a decent sound together. All of us have the inherent ability to compose a symphony, be it through words, notes, cadence, or what might otherwise be construed as prosaic work. Don’t get me wrong. I find indistinct paint splotches to be as trite as the next man. One simply has to believe that every last creature has something majestic to bequeath us all with…..a typical feeling when one is listening to Pharaoh Sanders.

From WM 2006—“The Curse of the Syndicate”:

WM 2006The most prying among you will wonder why I’ve devoted so much time and virulent vehemence toward the obsessive and excessive chronicling of a silly game. The answer, as it has been for the past four years, is that we need an excuse to get together. “What’s the point of calling?” has to be one of the fairest questions inhibiting any hard-working individual concerned with the particularized aspects of their daily life. 

Every four years the beautiful goes global, giving us the specific countermand we need to defeat that defeatist query. Booze, the eternal companion of sports viewing, also helps. Every other two years, the Europeans provide us with a comparable opportunity. To those of you who skipped over my Euro 2004 commentary, please hang with me in two years time for Euro 2008. It won’t be the same without you, and I sincerely mean that. 

Wasted and wounded.
It a’int what the (morose) moon did.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
Hey Frank, can I borrow.
A couple of bucks from you

To go a waltzing adherents
Waltzing, adherents
You, come a waltzing
Adherents with me

The lyrics belong to the only man to openly admit that he’s happy to grow older. I concur with Tom Waits one hundred percent. Someday I’ll ripen into the old guy I’ve always wanted to be. Hopefully, you’ll all be around…and I’ll see you….on a downtown train.

From EM 2008—“Syndicate United”
EM 2008
 Damn what a fine world we live in syndicate members,

Vicey needs a new moniker. How about “Man on Top of the World”? A cursory reading of that title might lead one to conclude that the king sits in his counting house high atop the fortune he’s amassed through a tiny amount of manipulation and great deal of luck. Not the case. I’m rich in ways that extend far beyond monetary rewards. 

Caught up my work and soon headed towards a bright shiny future, I now have the honor of watching my country win its fourth European Championship with the best cohort of internationally minded friends anyone could ever ask for. Many of you I’ve known for years. Others I can hardly wait to work with. No matter the outcome of Saturday’s match, it’s into the unrelenting sunshine with all of us

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Oh fuck….an icy piercing stab tells me this will be the most painfully awkward set of retroactive notes yet. 

It’s been my great privilege to share words with those deeply attuned to the great geopolitical challenges of our day.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Noooooooooo…don’t do it, Vicey!

I look forward to further fellowship with the especially find minds soon to flower in the service of International Organizations, Non-Profits, Research Institutes, and Think Tanks.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Aaaaah. Make it stop. Please someone make it stop!

From WM 2010—“Attack of the Syndicate”:

WM 2010
State-side syndicate members, it was an honor to spend a month with all of you. J I was thoroughly delighted to hear from every last one. It was my pleasure to hear where you are living now, what bullshit job has you frustrated, what graduate program is kicking your ass, what new babies your wife pooped out, what you decided to name those babies, and even what color vomit those babies spewed out last Tuesday. 

You were deemed syndicate members because you are journeymen like me. 

Every two years you find yourself in a fresh situation with loads of new exciting developments to report and tons of fresh quick-witted jabs to deliver. To all of those that I’ve met during my travels, my sojourns, and my more extended stays I merely wish to convey to you the following: The whole past month of furious writing was just for you. To all those who have found their place in life, and to those who continue to seek, glad we could share a global tournament over the past thirty days. JJ 

May we all meet again in two years time, regardless of where on this planet life has decided to lead us. May we all once again congregate to celebrate the beautiful game and its universal appeal. May we all yet again wager money, level puerile insults, and catch up on the cell until the sun threatens to rise or set. The spectacle shall return. My sincere hope is that not one among us will be too busy to revel in it.

From FWM 2011—“Bride of Syndicate”:

FWM 2011 This project’s brevity notwithstanding, we’ve once again managed share something significant together. I certainly learned more about this particular game. I now know more about 126 women than any dirty hermit should. It’s been a blast, far more fun than anything else I’ve researched this year. I’ve also learned that having an American mother entitles me to root for American Women. 

For those who are hopeful that my newfound nationalism will enable me to applaud the U.S. Men’s side…….sorry, I don’t do treason. 

Should the States meet my beloved Mannschaft in any international competition, a scant few nanoseconds will be required for me to determine my loyalty. Sorry, Yanks. Women are acceptable, but I cannot enlist in Sam’s Army. They have ways of making me talk….and I’ve always liked talking to them. It’ll never happen.

More important than anything related to this competition, the most rewarding things I’ve learned come from you, syndicate members. I’ve learned of new locations, new occupations, new familial additions and new familial departures. I’ve listened with glee in learning about situations in which all goes swimmingly. I’ve been disquieted to learn about unfortunate states of affairs where even the ingenuity of two creative minds is remiss to find grounds for optimism.

Above all, I’ve learned that another year has passed and we all continue to grind on. In the face of disappointments, personal tragedy, and troubles we could have never prepared for, pressing forward is the automatic response. For what is life but an endless series of challenges? The further we stretch, the higher the sky. The longer we carry the heavier the load. Hardly a moment prevails during which one might pause to congratulate oneself when more trials and the insecurities associated therewith loom on the horizon. Barely time to reflect upon what one has accomplished when the glare of what one hasn’t dominates perception.

Allow me to personally congratulate all of you with whom I’ve had the pleasure of spending this time with for moving forward through another year. Whatever wounding criticisms you face are nothing more than impermanent illusions. No syndicate member that I am aware of is incapable of grasping the important lessons and revving ahead. Let the academics be consumed with the empty vanity that precludes them from listening to any speakers other than themselves at a conference. 

May we continue to speak with one another in the spirit of enjoyment and discovery. To hell with the future one is expected to “win” for oneself. Although I hope these past three weeks have been something of an entertaining distraction for you, a larger hope is that I may still be considered a true friend; one that you may call anytime; one that you may always rely upon. 

From EM 2012—“Syndicate Resurrection”:

EM 2012
“To my dearest friends both old and new”,

Ten years ago a burgeoning writer gradually emerging from the harrowing tribulations of adolescence chose to employ this sincerest of greetings. After a month of hammering out flippant and facetious content, he could no longer resist conveying his genuine affection for a solid core of over a hundred individuals who graciously shared their time and wit with him. 

A decade has passed. Many of us have grown old together. Even though the responsibilities of adult life have shifted our priorities, we’ve retained the priceless character traits levity, perspicacity, and (of course) true heart.

When we began we were but children; soul-searching wanders, united merely by a rapacious sense of curiosity and “Wanderlust”. The beautiful game afforded us a pleasant distraction; a mood-elevating diversion we happily engaged in with hopes of parlaying our renewed vigor into the future. As the arrow of time has moved along its inevitable linear path, more and more of us have found our place in this world. 

I thank my wonderfully beautiful syndicate members for every last detailed reports on the new locations, new careers, and new families. Though I write a similar iteration on this theme every year, it has been an especially touching one. My heart sings at the news of your triumphs; triumphs of the lionhearted over an all-too-often petty and unkind world. You sharp ones deserve every last bit of success you presently enjoy.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Looking back at it all, I’m genuinely grateful for all my struggles, false-starts, and near misses. They enabled me to speak to you from the heart. Thanks for speaking back ; )

Then there are those who must still struggle through despair and doubt. These month-long festivals are, as always, dedicated to you. Though the more heartfelt exchanges cannot compete with the snarky ones in terms of entertaining copy, I assure you they outnumber those selected for the mailbag 20-1. It is precisely because of these communiqués that I can easily be so nonchalant when dealing with what might otherwise be one or two piercing personal attacks. To those ‘on the brink’ of the personal fulfillment they seek, I offer you the heartfelt promise that the Syndicate will always be there for you. 

More importantly, this Shadow Scholar will ALWAYS be here for you. I refer to you ‘on the brink’ of your individual aspirations, because I will not allow you to fail. Whatever anguish and dejection currently ails you, I will not allow you to face it alone. Your friendly bookie will never stand pat, picking you up and carrying you on his shoulders if he must. No one gets left behind in our circle. Absolutely no one. This world has place for all of us yet. We’ll strive until the very end.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

No rest for the weary. If anything, my personal failures only strengthened my determination to let NO ONE ELSE experience similarly dark moments. I’ll be there for you. I promise.

New members, new friends, and the poor souls who stumbled across this site when randomly googling something EM-related may be surprised that we finish in such an austere and even thoughtful fashion. It has always been so. Our core, now nearly 300 strong, constitutes an actual team. One might even say that we’re family. Once a year we get to relive the carefree, halcyon days of youthful indiscretion through some frivolous fluff. We’re quite the international crew, from every last continent on earth (except Antarctica…no penguin members that I’m aware of). 

There’s a very good reason winnings aren’t disseminated until the end of tournament. It takes me the better part of three days to calculate over 500 bets taken in U.S. Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Australian Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Polish Zloty, Swedish Kroner, Czech Kroner, Swiss Francs, Mexican Pesos, Argentine Pesos, and a whole host of ridiculous African currencies. Christ, now you at least know why I’m so adamant about preserving the single currency.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

The next bit covers “misfits”; a fitting term to describe those of us who, in spite of an unrelenting commitment to hard work and self-improvement, still must suffer under the duress of our own existential dilemmas…along with a few that others will invariably heap upon us. It’s all dedicated to you, brothers. Keep at it. Keep working. Keep striving. There’s no other way to get where you’re going. We’ll all end up somewhere reasonably tolerable. I’m sure of it ; )

We are the world’s misfits, the international journeymen of Generation Y, a ragtag group of pseudo-intellectuals who are always up for a heavy conversation over a beer. We’ve got opinions on political elections taking place all over the world. We’ll debate songs, films, or books with you until the sun comes up. As much as we love waving our own flags, someone who waves another will always remain more intriguing. We are global citizens, never fully content to stray from the cracks between nation states for too long. We crave the stimulation of the undiscovered harder than the most hardcore of junkies. WE ARE THE SYNDICATE!!

From CAN 2013—“Syndicate: Dark Continent”:

Dear Friends,

All too often I find myself reiterating the Syndicate’s core purpose: a congregational ground for those of the sharpest wit. It is in this spirit that I’m proud to share with you the most outstanding e-mail I’ve received over the past weeks

Reader: Insofar as I can tell, your blog project is essentially NPR. You provide dry, nuanced information free of charge, and anyone who consume the content gets a free tote bag.

Hehehe. Couldn’t have put it better myself. All loyal members can expect their “Schwag Pack” in the post before the end of the month. Admittedly, it’s one of the more atrocious business models you’ll ever encounter. Such a shame that I’m not business-minded when away from my job. What I am, who I am…is nothing more than a sincere thinker who appreciates company….just like you. Sports that transcend borders have afforded us an opportunity to get together every so often. Isn’t that cool?

Editor’s retroactive notes:

Take note, Syndicate faithful. If you want your place in the mailbag, produce something of the caliber above.

While The Syndicate isn’t exactly Nikolai Gogol’s Magnum Opus, piecing it all together does necessitate some work. Insofar as I’M concerned, the time invested analyzing obscure statistics, happily hacking away at the keys, setting amateurish lines, coordinating trans-global communication, and spending an inordinate amount of time in line at the Post Office might as well be time spent in heaven on earth.

Ordinarily, such “Goodbye Sections” serve as occasions for an unparalleled set of ruminative thoughts; a chance to bid farewell to treasured acquaintances until the sands of time fortuitously flow. Life is short. The sands of time can go take a running jump off a short cliff. In less than three weeks, we’ll rendezvous again for the World Baseball Classic. Following that, we’ll break until the Summer.

The newfound frequency of the Syndicate doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to pour a drink, crank up a little Randy Crawford, and get entirely too sentimental. I love every last one of you. I miss every last one of you. My deepest gratitude to all of you for staying in touch and playing a role in something truly special to me. Wherever we find ourselves, whatever petty tribulations we face, at least we have each other. No matter what trivial nonsense dominates our thinking, no matter what daily frivolous and inconsequential problem threatens to send us astray, no matter what inherently shallow need drives us toward the brink of madness…we have each other…and that means everything.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

……and I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry. ; ( ; (

From WBC 2013—“Syndicate: Reloaded”

WBC 2013
Dearest Mates,

Once again we find ourselves on the precipice of a “non-Syndicate” cycle. Time for your friendly bookie to slither and squirm back into the “ViceCave” from whence he came. The next time we convene, we’ll all be contending with the sweltering summer heat. 

Consider that for a moment. No gentlemen will be prompted to enter their wagers until the sultry calefaction of the brutal Summer compels us all to make insipidly insane decisions…like buying a ticket for “The Fast and the Furious—Part Six” in order to spend at least one hour in an air-conditioned movie theater. Sorry to augur such unforgivable stupidity, but it will happen.

All that remains is our traditional “Saccharine Section”, the part in which your friendly bookie composes something from the deepest recesses of his heart. Excuse me as I set the mood. Drink? Check. Music? Hmmm….Randy Crawford worked brilliantly last time, but this is a very different syndicate. Hmmm…Loreena Mckennitt? Nah. That’s WAY TOO sweet. “The Eels”? Nah. That’s a bit too hard. Brian Eno? Fuck off! As many times as I could listen to “And then So Clear”, it’s still one song stuck on a loop. Eric Bibb? Grrr…again, “Panama Hat” is but one song. John Hiatt? ONE SONG…..but wait a second. That chorus to that one song, “My Old Friend” aptly summarizes how I feel about all of you:

“My old friend(s)
You make me feel young again”

Look, guys. Even Mr. Wordsmith here has difficulty constructing something that adequately conveys how touching and vitally important it is that we can all get together like this. Life’s a cruel bitch. One might even deem life a mentally unstable girlfriend. Occasionally she coquettishly invites you to partake in the most uplifting of spiritually intimate moments. For the most part, however, she’s busy sticking her finger in your face, reminding you that you’re no good, and telling you to get lost.

We’ve all been there. We rise up every morning to face a fresh set of challenges. Even the most positive of attitudes can’t withstand all the finger pointing we must endure. I write such words in order to speak directly with those members who might not have had the strength to compose something witty for this book. Your bookie cares about you. He cares about your adversity. He loves you, and will always be there for you.

No one travels the obscure path of a Shadow Scholar without good reason. You’re my reasons. One shouldn’t anticipate an upgrade in the optics of my little blog anytime soon. It may come straight from the heart, but this large and gentle heart has many obligations beyond producing and starring in a “one-man-show”. Whether you’re on Cloud Nine or sloshing through the muck of self-doubt, you’re always welcome here. I’ll always be glad to hear from you.

From CC 2013—“Syndicate: Judgment Play”:

CC 2013 Alvorada Syndicate Members,

Time to get saccharine, sentimental, slushy, soapy, and even downright tender. If you’re a new syndicate member finding it difficult to cope with over 2000 pages of esoteric text, I highly recommend skimming through all NINE “Goodbyes and Championship Picks” Sections. 

Your friendly bookie ultimately likes communicating with you in a sincere fashion. After all of the sardonic shadowboxing, there comes a climactic time for heartfelt words. 

Like any quixotic dreamer, I’m absolutely nothing without you. In a world inundated by “information overload”, you took a few minutes to, at the very least, casually browse through my words. It doesn’t matter to me how paltry your numbers are. It will never matter ; )

Now we’ve determidedly arrived at the mushy part. We’ll employ the bold font, just for good measure:

Time to say goodbye. For many of you, the words I presently write will be the final ones we exchange for another year. It’s even possible that they're the final communiqués we’ll ever. People move on, and they have every right to do so. I’ve ethereally poked fun at the girl that suggested I pursue who suggested that I pursue a tenured full-professorship, but I honestly understand how PhDs feel. 

An individual can pour every last morsel of his or her heart and soul into teaching and looking after others, only to feel as if all the thoughtful advice was useless. As the years pass, even the most lionhearted amongst us grows cold and cynical. Our eyes are no longer able to recognize the “bright stars” in our limited field of vision.

I’m truly sorry if I’ve missed any “bright stars” that crossed my path. I may only be a “Pretend Professor”, but I’m just as guilty as a real one when it comes to ignoring real talent. All I have to modestly offer in return is the hope that you’ll join us for our next Syndicate in a few weeks…..which essentially means I have practically nothing to offer ; ( Care to come watch some European Women’s Football? I can’t hope to convince you. Even this ultra-cool graphic won’t sway you:

I’m certainly no salesman. I’m merely a humble bookie who enjoys both reading and writing existential ramblings to escape the monotony of daily life. Curious about how deep the roots of the Syndicate burrow? Days of searching yield the following:

From 2009’s “Syndicate: Afterlife”:

WMQ 2009 (2)Deutschland

Before I get to the gloating, I would like to request a moment of silence for our keeper, Robert Enke. Robert took his own life on Tuesday, throwing himself in front of a RegionalExpress near Hanover. Details remain sketchy. He was a professional success with a beautiful young family. It boggles the mind what would possess someone with so much going for him to voluntarily leave this earth. Robert, I don't know why you did it. Whatever your reasons, I hope you found the peace you were looking for. Wir werden sie nicht vergessen! Herzlichen dank für ihren Beitrag. J

Tragedy notwithstanding, life must always go on.

Editor’s retroactive notes:

A heavy national discussion ensued, focused primarily on the topics of clinical depression and the debilitating pressures of ultra-competitive environments. That frail and doubting human beings somehow discern a way of navigating the cruel rat race every day can occasionally be seen as a miracle. There exist no regular blueprints, no guaranteed tactics, and no consistently effective strategies to combat what random neuro-chemical cocktail the mind has selected for you on any given day. Each individual plows through the regular mental maelstroms with an ephemeral set of methods and gimmicks that work…until they no longer do. 

The misleading cliché so often written about Robert and those who chose his fate was that they lost the battle. However, to attach the connotations of a fight to the whole process serves to mislead. One has as much control over one’s mood as the weather above. The objective is never to forcibly resist, merely to endure. I’m aware that a few simplistic words mean nothing to those who lie crushed in a compact heap in some shade-drawn little prison of room, the weight of the world gradually compressing the space into an ever-tinier cell. The only advice one can dispense is to hang tough and sweat it out. You will feel better soon. Even if no one can reach you, you will feel better soon.     

You’ll feel better soon, mates. Don’t ignore that crucial fact. YOU’LL FEEL BETTER SOON!! 

From FEM 2013—“Syndicate X-2”:

FEM 2013Of course I still maintain the strength to thank all of you. Thank you for your bets. Thank you for your riffs. Thank you for your enduring companionship. We live in a retail world governed by short-term memories, shallow pitches, and hollow sound bites. It is such that I express my sincere gratitude for your respect of the Syndicate’s foundational principles. 

Thank you for not graffiti blasting the comment section. Thanks for not resorting to the tactics of “internet trolls”. Thanks for not actively promoting the Syndicate on your  Tumblr account. In short, thanks for remaining the mature and thoughtful brilliant minds that make you Syndicate Members.

We may love callow humor, but Syndicate Members will never resort to the cowardly behavior of dickless losers who enjoy posting poorly-written crap on Internet Message Boards. You’re my guys! Never! Syndicate Lines are posted on the Web for the sake of convenience. This accessibility forces me to delete a half hour’s worth of “Porn Troll” data every day. Occasionally, I have to delete the useless comments of a semi-literate imbecile. Mostly, however, I’m busy deflecting the stat-suckling of some truly sick individuals. Be grateful that you’ll never have to deal with such sub-human scum. 

From WM 2014—“12 Years a Syndicate”

WM 2014 Thanks to each and every last one of you. Thank you for sharing your time, your wit, and your wagers with me. Thank you for the privilege of hearing your news. Thank you for graciously filling me in on where the last year took you. Thank you for having the courage to still remain a part of this project heartfelt. 

Twelve years in and 19 Chapters complete, we still have each other. That means everything. Your friendly bookie once more takes a blushing bow and exits the stage bursting with pride at what we’ve accomplished together…and it’s all thanks to you.

Goodbyes Sections always pose a serious challenge, particularly now that the digital age now enables us to exchange every last prosaic detail of our pedestrian lives with one another virtually anywhere our smart phones can catch a WIFI connection. Why must we only congregate at specified intervals Vicey? Don’t you realize that I can send you photos of that concert I’m at instead of actually listening to the music?

Anyone catch the seething sarcasm in that last rhetorical aspersion? Listen to the music, dammit! We all need to take the time to listen to the music as it pulsates in tandem with the stage lights, appreciate the many intricate layers of that book we’re reading, share some intimate laughter with good friends during a night out on the town, and make some seriously passionate love morning, noon, and night. There’s a time to share with the world and a time to simply enjoy living in it.

I find the majesty of the World’s Beautiful Game the perfect excuse to reconnect with all of the brilliant minds I may have lost contact with over the course of life’s sometimes tedious slog. That’s the beating heart of the Syndicate: It’s you. All of you are the reason I take a full month off every year and spend my so-called “vacation time” working the keys so hard. The month-long journey affords everyone enough time to check in at least once. We now find ourselves at the end of that journey once again. I am fulfilled by your participation, touched by your words, and reinvigorated by yet another adventure that we’ve all undertaken together.

Now it’s time to get back to work. For those Syndicate Members who have found their place in this world (and that’s literally more of you every year) work serves as joy and a restorative. Many continue to seek. Others, unable to do what they truly love, have learned to love what they do. Some struggle to ward off old demons while others simply stopped feeding the beasts.

A most amazing aspect of these past twelve years has been watching such a diverse group of members grow, mature, and get out of their own way. So many of you have slain every last one of your adolescent dragons and gone on to find careers, start families, and divine your specific contribution to the communities and societies in which you live. Your friendly bookie stands tall and proud behind the dear friends he once described as “the world’s misfits; the international journeymen of Generation Y”. It’s been a most soaring spiritual experience…and that’s coming from an adamant atheist. ; )


For those for whom life continues to adversely accost, there remains an inexhaustible well of hope. To begin with, there’s an industrious, diligent, and assiduous Shadow Scholar out there who absolutely won’t allow you to fail. Whatever doubts assail you or self-inflicted wounds plague you, I will not allow you to fail. If need be I can pick you up and carry you on my broad shoulders for a time.

Hope will also always abound for Syndicate Members, specially selected for their depth and potential. When one seriously assesses the challenges life throws at you, a majority of them are concoctions of the weak and petty. We all deal with misery at times and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking out company in times of distress. Nevertheless, never let anyone drag you down into some sort of gloomy and tragic fantasy world of pain and sorrow. Stand tall, members.

My Updated Stats:

Spread: 23-39
Straight Up: 30-21-11

Final stats will be delayed until it is once again time for the Syndicate to convene.

Third Place Match

Congo DR vs. Equatorial Guinea


Ghastly officiating can’t save the hosts this time. They’re even luckier to be here than in 2012. Nevertheless, you still have yourselves a low line, gentlemen. Make the most of it. Good Luck.

Note that this will constitute your final opportunity to place a wager on “Geo-Syndicate Redux”, Gentlemen.

The Leopards should prevail. Kike or Iban might acquire an early lead, but Mbokani Bolasie, or Mabwati will claim the victory.

THE LINE: Congo DR + 1 Goal

Supreme Champion of the African-Footballing- Universe

Cote d’Ivoire vs. Ghana

 Ivory Coast vs. Ghana

We couldn’t have possibly planned a better finale. Two African Giants on the descent fight for the right to add a trophy to their legacy. Despite being two of the scariest dominant teams from the Dark Continent over the past decade, neither one of them has captured the coveted continental crown. “Les Elephants” lost two finals they were favored to win in 2006 and 2012.

The Black Stars have blown it in two consecutive semi-final rounds, in addition to losing to Egypt in the 2010 Finale, fumbling it away to Cameroon in the 2008 Semis, and shockingly failing to attain the knockouts in 2006.

One of these countries stands poised to get a 400 lb Gorilla off their back. It will make quite the story. With very little between the two sides, “Bookie Privilege” has been invoked. In “Syndicate Speak”, that translates to:


Allow me to reiterate for the “Scrollers”.


Your final chance to wager is on the Third Place Match. See Above.  

Gervinho alongside Bony with Yaya Toure in midfield is just….it’s just too much! “Les Elephants” claim their long-awaited Continental Championship. Such a pity that Drogba won’t be there to celebrate with them.

THE PICK: Cote d’Ivoire +1 Goal

Enjoy living your life. Enjoy it for it's own sake. Work hard and play even harder. Appreciate the painting. Delve deeper into that novel. DVR an entire series and write a critique of all of the story arcs. Make laughter and love as often as you can. : )

We’ll meet again. The Syndicate will return. For the time being……

“Go kick a ball with a stranger”

Seriously…go kick a ball with a stranger.

--S.S. P.J.V.   

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

CAN 2015--Semi-Finals

Morgen Syndicate Members,

Let’s all take a moment to congratulate the Socceroos of Australia on their first AFC Cup. They may have cost me a great deal of money, but Troisi’s hard-fought stab-in after the fanciful finish from Song Heung-Min in the 91st means they fought hard enough.




Welcome to Russia, Socceroos. “Operation Barbarossa” begins with you. The most inviolable Krauts seek to defend their title, and it all begins with you.

 Mile Jedinak: Lifts the Asian Cup trophy for Australia

We’ll meet you there, flatlanders

Back to Africa. Semi-Final lines may appear predictable at first glance, but the fickle continent likely has much more in store for us.

My Updated Stats:

Spread: 7-21
Straight Up: 7-11-10

Merging these stats with the updated ones from the recently completed AFC Continental Championship:

Spread: 21-39
Straight Up: 28-21-11

Could have been worse….or so your friendly bookie is fond of telling himself before he rolls over and fails to go to sleep. ; )

Let’s check the mail:

Related image

Reader: Wish I had a time machine. I’d take you back to where you were six years ago.

Vicey: I know, brother 87-M. Vintage Syndicate Posts have become popular as of late. They aged well, just like a bottle of Old Vine Red Zinfandel. You composed the best post. That’s why you’re the only one featured in this mailbag.

What a world it might be if all of us didn’t have to worry about waking up for work the next morning. Wouldn’t be really cool if none of us had to worry about managing all of the disparate personalities that infiltrate our daily lives? Bliss may be accurately defined as the “freedom to learn/read ALL day and every day”.

Thank you, 87-M.

 And STOP referencing “WMQ 2009”!!

“A Syndicate Classic”

Let’s do it, brothers. Let’s travel back in time four years. Farewells are in order. Your bookie will soon follow suit. Let’s journey back to the best of the best “Farewell Sections” that your friendly bookie had to offer.

WM 2010

From WM 2010—“Goodbyes and Championship Pick”

As we stand before the terminus of our month-long festival, I am finally prepared to use that phrase. It saddens me greatly that this is farewell until 2012, unless of course Ratzinger dies unexpectedly and I have privilege of writing another “Pope-a-Palooza” betting pool. Unlike the von Trapp Family Singers, I am not particularly skilled at saying goodbye. I find myself more blocked that John Goodman during the season finale of “Treme”. Not only must we part, but our next rendezvous will be for Euro 2012 in……the Ukrain (a location I am frankly sick of talking about). Before I throw myself off the West Bank Ferry, do allow me to try and express my thanks:

State-side syndicate members, it was an honor to spend a month with all of you. J I was thoroughly delighted to hear from every last one. It was my pleasure to hear where you are living now, what bullshit job has you frustrated, what graduate program is kicking your ass, what new babies your wife pooped out, what you decided to name those babies, and even what color vomit those babies spewed out last Tuesday. You were deemed syndicate members because you are journeymen like me. Every two years you find yourself in a fresh situation with loads of new exciting developments to report and tons of fresh quick-witted jabs to deliver. 

To all of those that I’ve met during my travels, my sojourns, and my more extended stays I merely wish to convey to you the following: The whole past month of furious writing was just for you. To all those who have found their place in life, and to those who continue to seek, glad we could share a global tournament over the past thirty days. May we all meet again in two years time, regardless of where on this planet life has decided to lead us. May we all once again congregate to celebrate the beautiful game and its universal appeal. May we all yet again wager money, level puerile insults, and catch up on the cell until the sun threatens to rise or set. The spectacle shall return. My sincere hope is that not one among us will be too busy to revel in it.

Short and sweet enough for ya? Onwards to the present events…

Goodbyes Section

8th Place—Guinea

Shirt badge/Association crestCold and Clinical victory from the Black Stars. Nice job dispatching these lucky-lot-bastards with antiseptic ease. For once in this erratic tournament, your friendly bookie was spot on with his call.  Traore looked completely astray on the right flank. Grant’s choice of Appiah as the pincer totally negated any tactical schemes Dussuyer might have contemplated. Yattara’s “Sonic Boom” kick was a fitting end to a totally lopsided match.

The “Overlooked Elephants” nevertheless supplied us with plenty of worthwhile restrospectives. Mohammed Yattara’s volley in the opening match contends for the tournament’s finest tally. Traore’s rocket in Round Two won’t soon be forgotten. Constant’s penalty in the final group stage match capped a highly intriguing tournament during which La “Syli Nationale” improbably kept the score level against more talented opposition. 

Not too shabby from a team initially projected to finish dead last. ; )

Ibrahima Traore und "Die Fohlen" seek to claim the “Bundesliga Challenger” spot relinquished by the now disgraced Borussia Dortmund.

The Second Half of the Bundesliga kicks back off! Javoll!

7th Place—Tunisia

Shirt badge/Association crestSweet crucified and crying Jesus! What the hell happened? For those of you who missed it, the hosts were awarded an absolutely unforgivable penalty in the third minute of injury time. Horrible officiating enabled the one-time Real Madrid prospect to grab a brace with an admittedly brilliant free kick in the 102nd minute. It still wasn’t fair.

The unsportsmanlike behavior of the Tunisians after the controversial call absolutely warrants financial sanction, but the “Eagles of Carthage” deserve to feel hard done by. CAF has suspended the match referee for good reason. He blew it. Terrible call. Atrocious judgment.

Akaichi did his job and his team should have punched through to their first semi-final in eleven years. This was to be their year. Esteban Becker assembled a fine team. Akaichi, Mskani, and Chickhaoui crushed it with their performances.

Sheiße! Always a pity when overwhelmingly shitty officiating gets in the way ; ( ; (  

6th Place—Algeria

Shirt badge/Association crestNorth Africa no longer competes. There was a time when such a fact filled your friendly bookie with feelings of unbridled joy. Er….it actually wasn’t that long ago. Let’s go ahead and look it up.

From CAN 2013—Round Three:

Today’s offerings were nothing short of spectacular. The anti-North-African inclinations of your friendly bookie were satiated in full. Viva Les Elephants! Viva Adebayor!

My updated stats:

Spread: 3-13
Straight up: 4-6-6

Hell, I don’t give a shit. So long as the money flows and the non-Arab African teams go.

That is but a VERY SMALL sample of my ire, brothers. Having spent some time in sub-Saharan Africa, your friendly bookie loathed and detested the Arab Garbage that the “Volta-del-Mar” carried down to his beloved Dark Continent. Further evidence isn’t required. Scroll your heart out should you wish to locate a few frequent triplicate capitalizations.

For the sake of convenience, don’t even bother scrolling. I’ll give them to you:


Times have changed….somewhat. The three groups mentioned above should still should be rounded up and thrown into the gas chamber, but the Algerian Football team will be missed. Gourcuff and Halihodzic put together an excellent crew. Slimani, Soudani, Brahimi, Lacen, Feghouli, and Medjani are too awesome for words.

Looking forward to seeing the “Desert Foxes” in two short years.


5th Place—Congo NDR
Shirt badge/Association crest

You didn’t miss it, did you? Please tell me you didn’t miss it! C’mon boys! It took place well before the American Super Bowl. You didn’t miss the “Congolese Derby”! I refuse to believe it!! Dore and Bifouma came through! Unfortunately for them, Mbokani and Bokila came through as well and we had ourselves a six-goal-slugfest.

Claude Le Roy’s “Red Devils” turned out to be everything we thought they could be. They bitch-slapped our initial expectations and skull-fucked our skepticism. Every last smartass remark made in jest against the “Handsome Crook from Normandy” may be considered retracted.

We’ll miss you, Red Devils!

Come back soon ; )  

Line Time, Gentlemen


Congo DR vs. Cote d’Ivoire

 Democratic Republic of the Congo vs. Ivory Coast

How tempting it is to pick the Leopards for an “Upset Special” . Bolasie, Mabwati, and Makaidi pose a legitimate threat. In the final analysis, however, my beloved Leopards are no different than my ultra needy Aryan Cat. They selfishly appeal for cosseting cuddles when daddy is trying to work.

Herve Renard’s latest (projected) formation is too much to overcome. Gradel owns the right flank. In the event that he doesn’t, Toure can feed Bony from afar.

Projected Lineups:

 “The Leopards”—(4-5-1 )

                   Dieumerci Mbokani
     Yannick Bolasie          Jeremy Bokila
                      Cedric Mabwati
           Cedric Makaidi  Lema Mabidi
J. Kasusula C. Mongongu J. Kimwaki I. Mpeko
                      Robert Kidiaba

 “Les Elephants”—(4-3-3) 

                  Wilfred Bony
          Gervinho     Max Gradel
                   Yaya Toure
             S. Kalou  Serey Die
S. Tiene W. Kanon K. Toure S. Aurier
                Sylvain Gbohou     

THE LINE: Cote d’Ivoire +2 Goals

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—3 Goals 
120 Minutes—Straight Up
Penalty Shootout—2 to 1


Ghana vs. Equatorial Guinea

Ghana vs. Equatorial Guinea

Deathmatch. It’s over. It’s over for the auspicious hosts and their serendipitous penalty. They’re finished. Avram Grant will rock precisely the lineup that your friendly bookie projects. The Ayew Brothers will receive support from Atsu and Mubarak. Kwesi Appiah and Asamoah Gyan will kill-strike given the right opportunity.

Afful and Rahman will switch effectively. Unforeseen Number One Keeper Brimah Razak will shine. Helluva job, kid. Way to wow us so-called “experts”!

Go get it.

Projected Lineups:

 “The Black Stars”—(4-1-3-2 )

       Kwesi Appiah Asamoah Gyan
          Andre Ayew Jordan Ayew
                    Christian Atsu
                   Wakaso Mubarak
B. Rahman  J. Boye J. Mensah    H. Afful
                     Brimah Razak

 “The National Thunder”—(4-4-2) 

       Emilio Nsue Raul Fabiani
              J. Balboa   Iban
            Kike      Zarandona
Sipo                                      Randy
                Rui  D. Mbele
                Felipe Ovono

THE LINE: Ghana +2 Goals.

Prop Bets (as always, feel free to offer your own)

Over/Under—4 Goals 
120 Minutes—2 to1
Penalty Shootout—3 to 1