Sunday, November 30, 2008

Westbrook Politics: December 1- December 5, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008
Facilities and Streets Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Planning Board meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Finance Committee meeting
Westbrook City Hall, 2 York Street

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: November 23- November 29, 2008

High: 48F (November 26)
Low: 14F (November 24)
Precipitation: 2.28 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:54a
Previous Sunset: 4:06p

High: 66F (November 5)
Low: 14F (November 20, November 21, November 24)
Precipitation: 4.68 inches

High: 88F (September 4)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 55.95 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Westbrook Rec Open Gym

On Location

I pedaled up to the Westbrook Rec Department around 6:20p and was ready to play some pick-up basketball five minutes later. Unfortunately, though, because of the Rec's arcane way of doing things at its Adult Open Gym, I didn't actually hop into a full-court game until 8:15p.

To be sure, I hadn't been to Open Gym at the Rec for a couple years, so I'd forgotten just how competitive it can sometimes get for floor time. But at the same time, I'd never attended Open Gym when there were more than twenty players jockeying for games, so I had never realized just how inane their "First Twenty" policy is.

Put simply, the first twenty players who pay their two bucks and sign their names on a list form four teams of five players and rotate among each other (two games on, two games off) perpetually until players begin dropping out. When a player decides he's had enough (the population is universally male) and leaves, one of the reserves hops in for the departing player.

So if you are one of those unlucky souls who arrives after the first twenty have been determined, well, you just hang out until one of the early birds checks out for the night or is generous enough to give up a game on your behalf (don't be expect the former to happen until about 8p and don't be hopeful for the latter ever to happen). Moreover, to make matters worse, the gradual integration of the reserves is arbitrary, as the twenty-first, twenty-second, etc. players arriving to play aren't required to sign in, thus staking their spots--and respecting others'--in the hierarchy.

So if you're not in that exclusive club of the first twenty players, it's advantageous to be aggressive and damn the first-come, first-play ethic that otherwise rules the night.

Anyway, because the guys who constituted the first twenty didn't begin to leave en masse until they finished their seventh or eighth games (games are to eleven points, which takes between ten and fifteen minutes) at about 8:15p, I wasn't able to crack the top twenty until about that time. And because the team I did eventually play against had just played their seventh or eighth game, they decided to leave immediately after our game.

Nevertheless, there is a bright side to getting in only uninspired one game in two hours: I don't have to worry about scrubbing the film of sweat off my forearm gathered from the bare back of the player I would've had to guard in the low post.

Hey, I've got to be positive about something.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. All the literature and signs in the Rec building suggest Adult Open Gym is every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening from 6:30-9p. However, as one veteran put it to me tonight, it actually begins as soon as the adults can wrestle the court away from the preceding middle-schoolers. Tonight, for example, the games began in earnest between 6p and 6:15p. Which means you should start camping out in the lobby before 6p on some nights (I was told Tuesdays are the busiest and that it is less crowded as the week progresses) if you actually want to, you know, play.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Diamon Addresses the Media's Role in the Al-Hamdany Arrest

Downeast media critic Al Diamon focuses on the media's role in the very public arrest of Westbrook businessman Abbas Al-Hamdany in his post today. Here's a taste:
It’s not the job of the news media to make the police look good. It is the job
of journalists to question why the bust they were allowed to cover is any more
newsworthy than the “several unrelated arrests in neighboring communities” that
took place that same day, according to the Press Herald. It’s the job of
committed reporters to follow up on this action by getting more facts. The Press
Herald story mentions that police didn’t provide such details as how much
cocaine Al-Hamdany allegedly sold. Sounds like the makings of a follow-up story,
but as of today, I haven’t seen it. Police were reported to be planning
additional arrests. If they ever happened, the information didn’t reach me.

- John C.L. Morgan

Bartlett Outlines Legislative Priorities

Phil Bartlett (D-Cumberland County), one of Westbrook's two state senators, was the focus of a Press Herald piece on the challenges facing the Legislature when it opens for business on December 3 (though the next session doesn't officially begin until January 6, legislators will be sworn in and committees will begin meeting on December 3).

State Sen. Bartlett, who was recently elected as majority leader in the Senate, defined the Legislature's priorities for the upcoming session:
  1. Cut spending in order to counter a $150 million shortfall for the current fiscal year.
  2. Decrease Maine's dependance on foreign oil by expanding the use of alternative energy.
  3. Institute tax reform that shifts the tax burden from residents to visitors (e.g., lodging and meals taxes).

To see if Bartlett represents your neck of the woods (or ribbon of pavement, as the case may be), click here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Nocturnal Westbrook

Tony Bessey at Ordinary Maine has photos of industrial Westbrook at night (here, here, and here).

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Song of the Week

The song of the week is "Thankful" by Kenya Hall.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: November 16- November 22, 2008

High: 60F (November 16)
Low: 14F (November 20, November 21)
Precipitation: 0.17 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:45a
Previous Sunset: 4:10p

High: 66F (November 5)
Low: 14F (November 20, November 21)
Precipitation: 2.40 inches

High: 88F (September 4)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 53.67 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, November 21, 2008


According to the American Journal, Abbas Al-Hamdany, a co-owner of Friendly Discount on Main Street, was arrested by the Westbrook police this afternoon for trafficking cocaine.

Al-Hamdany, an Iraqi native who served federal jail time for a similar arrest ten years ago, has gained some notoriety over the last five years as one of the Press Herald's go-to guys for American-Iraqi reaction to events occurring in that country since the American invasion in March 2003.

A quick search on Maine Marvel! also yielded another nugget: The Westbrook City Council approved (6-2) the renewal of Friendly Discount's license to sell tobacco and food in May 2002, despite Al-Hamdany's wife incorrectly reporting on an application that her husband had not been convicted of a felony in the previous three years (she argued her mistake was an honest one, since she based her answer on the date the crime had occurred instead of the date of his conviction). The Westbrook Police subsequently dropped charges accusing the couple of falsifying information.

(Update: Proving once again that he's eager to fill the media vacuum vacated by former Portland Police Chief "Media" Mike Chitwood, Westbrook Police Chief "Bustlin'" Bill Baker invited the media to witness Al-Hamdany's arrest yesterday afternoon. However, a photograph of Al-Hamdany's perp walk, which figured prominently on page four of this morning's Press Herald, is not online.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Vintage Pigskinner

As part of its look back at high school football stars of yesteryear, the Press Herald has profiled former Blue Blazer Larry Napolitano.

Napolitano, who led the team to two relatively stellar records in 1971 and 1972, is referred to by former coach Jack Dawson (1968-77, 1979-83) as "probably the most complete player" he'd ever coached.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Westbrook Native Named Coast Guard Chief of Staff

Rear Admiral John Currier, a Westbrook native and University of Southern Maine graduate, was recently named the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Coast Guard.

An aviation officer in the Coast Guard since 1976, Rear Adm. Currier has been stationed throughout the United States and was most recently commander of the Coast Guard Thirteenth District in Seattle, Washington. As Chief of Staff, he'll "oversee acquisition, human capital, budgeting, communitcation technologies, engineering and logistics for the service."

- John C.L. Morgan

Disclosure: I'm a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.

Class B

According to the AJ, there was a public forum held earlier tonight (it could still be going even as I type these words). The topic for discussion: Should Westbrook High School drop down to Class B in some sports in order to field more competitive teams.

Football, ice hockey, lacrosse, indoor track, and outdoor track are the sports being floated about as the sports that'll drop down to the class currently occupied by smaller schools. It's worth mentioning that Westbrook High School is currently the smallest public school in the Southwestern Maine Athletic Association (SMAA).

Who knows, maybe our gridders will be the subject of a future documentary about class warfare Westbrook beating up on Cape Elizabeth.

- John C.L. Morgan

Disclosure: I am an assistant coach in the high school soccer program.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A couple days after the November 4 Republican debacle, Ray Richardson lamented the lack of farm team for that party's politicians. More relevant to Brookers (as you may have noticed, I've not yet settled on a sticky way in which to refer to people living in Westbrook), though, is Richardson's claim that Maine Democrats have eyed Westbrook City Councilor Brendan Rielly as a possible candidate for governor in the future (3:35).

Which makes sense, I suppose, when you consider Rielly (who was evidently known to his high school classmates as Bud and Zeus) articulated a desire to "[s]tudy politics and become either a Senator or Representative" in his 1988 yearbook.

On another front, I'm still working on obtaining that kindergarten essay in which little Zeus, er, Rielly expressed his desire to one day jump on the Blaine House beds.

- John C.L. Morgan

And the Winners Are...

The Portland Phoenix has announced the winners and runner-ups of their third annual short-film festival:

Best Drama
Winner: "Walk On By," Lisa Wolfinger
Runner-Up: "This, We Have Now," Jeff Griecci

Best Music Video
Winner: "Antique Shop," Will Ethridge
Runner-Up: "Outside the City Walls," David Camlin

Best Comedy
Winner: "Myth Perceptions: The Sheriff's Tale," Matt Power
Runner-Up: "Double Oh," Jeff Griecci

Best Documentary
Winner: "Let's Make a Deal," Mike Russell
Runner-Up: "The Fair," Roger McCord

Best Reality Video
Winner: "Flyin' John," Roger McCord

Best Production
Winner: "The Perimeter," Sarah Matzke
Runner-Up: "Artifact, Episode 3," William Fraser Jr.

PROJECT AYNA-V, produced by Westbrook's own Unicorn Cove, obviously wasn't nominated for any of these awards.

- John C.L. Morgan

Presumpscot Hose Company No. 1

Did You Know?

Did you know the Westbrook Fire Department was founded in 1890?

According to a centennial pamphlet published by the department in 1990, the Valentine Hose Company No. 1 was formed on April 16, 1890, and the Presumpscot Hose Company No. 1 was organized on July 16, 1890.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Much thanks to the staff at Walker Memorial Library.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Location:

For this week's installment of "On Location," I've traipsed all the way to to check in on the music pages of Westbrook-based bands and musicians.

The Good:
Black Rose
Westbrook City Clerk Lynda Adams is unashamedly bitchy. Or at least that's how describes herself when her band, Black Rose, covers Meredith Brooks's "I'm a Bitch." Black Rose also does a mean cover of AC/DC's "TNT" (though I don't think that's Adams grunting in the first :23), Heart's "Barracuda" (no word yet on whether the Wilson sisters have sent a cease-and-desist letter to this Republican* woman), the Guns 'N Roses' "Mr. Brownstone," and Melissa Etheridge's "Bring Me Some Water."

G-Cote the Mastermind
A former classmate of mine, G-Cote the Mastermind (or as he prefers it, "The Future aka The Mastermind aka G-Cote") has come a long way since we rapped together about the Fourth Amendment (set to the rhythm and sounds of Warren G's "Regulate," if my memory serves correctly) for a project in eighth grade. And yes, that was as pathetic (or funny) as it sounds.

Future Legendz
Consisting of a couple other former classmates, the Future Legendz are what you'd get if you mixed a cocktail containing the popularity of hip-hop culture among America's youth, one of the whitest states in the Union, the mean streets of Da Brook, and the beats of G-Cote etc. (see above). Seriously, though, these guys are actually pretty good. My personal favorite: "Dhoom."

Kinda Blue
Made up members of the Westbrook High School jazz band, this quartet's page features four songs, including covers of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" and John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf's much-covered "Moonlight in Vermont."

Leigh Charest
I know next-to-nothing about this girl (woman?), but I do know I like what I hear. Must listen: The grotesque but starry-eyed "The Boyfriend Song."

I could pluck some money quotes from Sonya Tomlinson's (aka Sontiago) March piece on Pallaso, or I could just link you to it. I'm lazy, so I'll do the latter (here).

The Bad:
Fuzzy Bear
In his essay about MySpace's effect on music (sorry, no link), the critic David Hajdu writes, "After an hour or so of using the search mode to find something worth the effort, I got punchy and, after the words "sounds like," typed "shit." Pages for more than three hundred bands popped up, and the first five, I can attest, were well categorized." Even though Hajdu doesn't confirm it, Fuzzy Bear was probably one of those approximately three hundred bands. After all, they disgustingly describe their sound as "a live rotted fetus thats (sic) been stabbed in the eyes with fillet knives, dropped into a vat of boiling ureic acid, and then thrown in a blender."

Stay classy, boys.

And the Others:
Marc Mailhot
Matt Natale
Sidereal Day

- John C.L. Morgan

* Adams was a Republican until she lost in that party's primary for the City Clerk job. She subsequently won the job after registering as a Democrat.

Chirping Sneakers

The Press Herald's Glenn Jordan hung out with the Westbrook girls' basketball team yesterday afternoon, as they opened the winter sports season with their first practice with a new coach.

Does anyone else share my opinion that Jordan is the most lively writer on the Press Herald's staff?

- John C.L. Morgan

Oink, Oink

Steve Meyers had a pointed editorial cartoon regarding the sexual harassment complaints at the Westbrook Fire Department in last week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, November 17, 2008

Guidi's Gets a (Parenthetical) Shout-Out

Tim Jones, an outdoors and travel writer with a piece in New Hampshire's Concord Monitor, set out for a day of Nordic walking in Portland last week. Before he ventured to the Forest City, however, he stopped in at Guidi's Diner and had this to say about the greasy spoon:

"We woke early on Sunday to find a breezy morning with peek-a-boo sunshine calling us to come out and play (after breakfast at Guidi's in Westbrook, of course--perhaps the best breakfast joint in the state of Maine)."

Not bad.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Reminds me of the breakfast-at-Guidi's-and-fishing-on-the-Presumpscot trip I had in June. You know, back when it wasn't dark at 4:30p.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Blogging: Or, How This Site Got Its Moniker

Andrew Sullivan has a thoughtful essay on the blogging phenomenon in the latest issue of The Atlantic. Coincidentally, Sullivan and I share a similar inspiration and model for our respective sites, except, of course, the training part:

I had a few early inspirations: the old Notebook
section of The New Republic, a magazine that, under the editorial
guidance of Michael Kinsley, had introduced a more English style of crisp, short
commentary into what had been a more high-minded genre of American opinion
writing. The New Republic had also pioneered a Diarist feature on the
last page, which was designed to be a more personal, essayistic, first-person
form of journalism. Mixing the two genres, I did what I had been trained to
do--and improvised.

- John C.L. Morgan


Here's the big news I missed while I was enjoying some rest and relaxation last week:

Phil Bartlett, one of Westbrook's two state senators, was elected as the Democratic Party's majority leader in the Maine Senate on Tuesday.

Opponents of Pike's expansion plans presented a report on Thursday that accuses Pike (along with Blue Rock Industries) of illegally operating a quarry for forty years.

The City of Westbrook instituted a winter parking ban on Saturday; it'll remain in effect until April 15.

- John C.L. Morgan

Song of the Week

I present Matt Shipman's "Winter's Moving In."

Yeah, it's that time of year.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: November 17- November 21, 2008

Monday, November 17
Accounts & Claims meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Tuesday, November 18
Planning Board meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: November 9- November 15, 2008

High: 60F (November 15)
Low: 26F (November 12)
Precipitation: 1.53 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:43a
Previous Sunset: 4:38p

High: 66F (November 5)
Low: 24F (November 2)
Precipitation: 2.23 inches

High: 88F (September 4)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 53.50 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Or something like that. Anyway, will be back next Sunday.

In the meantime, shoot some feedback my way. What do you adore about the site? What makes you cringe? Do you want to become a contributor? Or, do you think I should beg a certain person to contribute? And most important, how much are you willing to pay to subscribe to this site?

Just kidding.

John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: November 2- November 8, 2008

High: 66F (November 5)
Low: 24F (November 2)
Precipitation: 0.70 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:34a
Previous Sunset: 4:44p

High: 66F (November 5)
Low: 24F (November 2)
Precipitation: 0.70 inches

High: 88F (September 4)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 51.97 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, November 6, 2008

In Other News...

Buried amid all the news about Tuesday's elections, there's this AJ article about the City Council's recent actions on the proposed Stroudwater Place development.

Long story, short: The Council approved two additional amendments to the contract zone, but rejected three others. And Councilors voted 4-3 (Councilors Cramer, Foley, and O'Hara opposed) to send the contract zone to the Planning Board for further review.

According to City Administrator Jerre Bryant, the Planning Board will address the issue on November 18, who would send it back to the City Council for a preliminary vote on December 1.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election '08: Unofficial Results

Here are the unofficial results from yesterday's elections in Westbrook, courtesy of 2 York Street.

- John C.L. Morgan

E-Mail of the Day

Ron Pfeifer of Randle, Washington read my post regarding the S.S. Westbrook Victory and sent this e-mail:

"Found your blog while searching the Internet for information about the S.S. Westbrook Victory. Just thought I’d let you know that my father came home from World War II on the Westbrook Victory. He was a combat infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division in northern Italy and is now 83 years old. A few weeks ago, I was asking him questions about his war experiences, and he mentioned the Westbrook Victory as the ship that brought him back to the U.S. from Italy. I decided to search for info on the ship so I could include it in the memoir I’m putting together about his time in the army during the war.

The Westbrook Victory was tied up at the dock in the port city of Livorno, Italy when my dad (and the entire 86th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division) arrived by train (riding in boxcars) on July 26, 1945. They lined up outside their boxcars and marched with their heavy duffel bags out to the ship, lining up in single-file before the gangplank. As they came to the gangplank, a pretty Women's Army Corps (WAC) member called off their last names, and each soldier answered back with their first name and filed aboard the ship. The ship finally got underway in the mid-afternoon on the 26th and steered an irregular course through the wrecks in the harbor, as well as through the narrow gap in the row of ships the Germans sank close to the harbor. It then sailed into into the Mediterranean Sea.

The soldiers' trip back to the States on the Westbrook Victory was much more relaxed and enjoyable than their trip to Italy back in December 1944 aboard the S.S. Argentina. They were able to watch movies on deck. And they also had an interesting way of laundering their clothes on the trip home: Each soldier had two pair of fatigues to use, so when one set would get dirty after three or four days, they would tie them to a rope and throw the rope over the side of the ship. The uniforms tied to the rope would be dragged through the saltwater for several hours at which time the soldiers would haul them aboard and hang them on the rail to dry.

They arrived back home in the United States at Newport News, Virginia on August 7, 1945, the day after they had received the news aboard ship that the U.S. had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan."

- John C.L. Morgan

On Donuts

Now that the elections are over, let's get down to what really matters in life: Donuts.

Via Portland Psst!, Down East has named The Frog and Turtle's donuts to its honorable mention list of the best donuts in Maine.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election '08: Dems Sweep Westbrook Seats

According to the Bangor Daily News, Democratic incumbents Ann Peoples (HD-125), Tim Driscoll (HD-126), Phil Bartlett (SD-6), and Joseph Brannigan (SD-9) were each re-elected to the Maine House of Representatives (Peoples and Driscoll) and the Maine Senate (Bartlett and Brannigan).

The results are as follows:

Maine House of Representatives, #125
Anne E. Peoples (D), 57.04% (2,201 votes)
Robert S. Morrill (R), 42.96% (1,658 votes)

Maine House of Representatives, #126
Timothy E. Driscoll (D), 66.55% (2,268 votes)
Kevin A. Crocker (R), 33.45% (1,140 votes)

Maine Senate, #6
Philip L. Bartlett II (D), 60.43% (2,343 votes)
Phillip A. Csoros (R), 39.57% (1,534 votes)

Maine Senate, #9
Joseph C. Brannigan (D), 66.71% (4,465 votes)
Nicholas S. McGee (R), 33.29% (2,228 votes)

(Update: Evidently these numbers represented early returns. Though the results remain the same, the Press Herald has the latest numbers.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Westbrook Almanac: October 26- November 1, 2008

High: 67F (October 26)
Low: 25F (October 31)
Precipitation: 2.37 inches
Previous Sunrise: 7:26a
Previous Sunset: 5:52p

High: 73F (October 9)
Low: 25F (October 31)
Precipitation: 3.19 inches

High: 88F (September 4)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 51.27 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Quote of the Day

“Debates get long, and many representatives get tired.”

- Maine House majority leader Hannah Pingree (D-North Haven), defending Rep. Troy Jackson after a political ad that features Jackson sleeping in the House Chamber was placed in a newspaper. In fairness, Jackson blamed serious health problems (he was awaiting heart surgery) for his dormancy.

- John C.L. Morgan

Paging Groucho Marx

I don't know if this is a sign of desperation, but Charlie Summers (or perhaps more accurately, a staffer writing under Summers's name) has cited my post about the Maine Student Mock Election as a sign that optimism should reign in his campaign.

I'm so grateful that at least one person paid attention to my hard work that I'm hesitant to note that one of the two elections Maine kids have gotten wrong in the last ten years involved another Republican running for Congress (Kevin Raye in 2002).

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Yes, my friends, that's how you throw cold water on a warm compliment. But it had to be done in the name of fake self-depreciation.

American Journal, Leslie Bridgers Get Shout-Outs

Media critic and political columnist Al Diamon gave the American Journal and AJ reporter Leslie Bridgers credit for running a story about the shenanigans at the Fire Department a full two weeks before the Portland Press Herald bothered to write anything about the events.

- John C.L. Morgan

PolitickerME: Peoples, Driscoll Have the Advantage

Jessico Alaimo of PolitickerME has handicapped all 151 Maine House races, and she reports the Maine House #125 race "[l]eans Democrat" and the Maine House #126 is "[s]afe Democrat."

Of the House #125 race between Bob Morrill (R) and Rep. Ann Peoples (D), Alaimo writes: "Peoples won by about 300 votes in 2006, and given the dynamics of this district it will likely be a close one this year, although she has the advantage."

And of the House #126 race between Kevin Crocker (R) and Rep. Tim Driscoll (D), Alaimo writes: "Incumbent Timothy Driscoll (D-Westbrook) won by about 700 votes in 2006, and shouldn’t have a problem beating Kevin Crocker (R-Westbrook) this year."

To make her forecasts, Alaimo notes that she looks at the candidates, the candidates' electoral histories, the districts' past electoral results, and considers advice from "people close to the process."

Taken all together, her predictions for all 151 House districts break down as follows: 45 seats are "Safe Democrat," 15 seats are "Likely Democrat," 16 seats are "Leans Democrat," 26 seats are "Toss up," 27 seats are "Safe Republican," 7 seats are "Likely Republican," 14 seats are "Leans Republican," and 1 seat is "Safe Independent."

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. For a more detailed look at the races and candidates in each of these races, check out the improved edition of the Election '08: Westbrook Voters' Guide.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Sportswriter: Three Ideas for a Better American Soccer Fan

Being a soccer fan in America can breed paranoia. Perhaps because of its seasonal juxtaposition with football and all the instrinsic violence associated with that sport, a hint of an affinity for soccer attracts catcalls questioning one's manhood and hardiness. Moreover, critics of the sport even go so far as accusing any American who appreciates the "world's game" of being an un-American and undemocratic European socialist.

So it is that climate that I offer the beleaguered American soccer fan three ideas, an unfinished manifesto for the American soccer fan, if you will.

Talk American

My most eye-wincing experiences as an American soccer fan often occur when one of my fellow soccer aficienadoes throws out verbiage foreign to the ears of average Americans and--more important--to the culture of American soccer. (To add salt to the proverbial wound, such verbiage is usually uttered only after the mutterer has slipped into his best Madonna-esque British accent.) Therefore, American soccer fans should use language that is easily understood by the non-soccer fan in America. And speak a tongue that upholds the American soccer tradition.

Therefore, American soccer fans must cave to the inherent illogic of the matter and resist the temptation to call their sport soccer, not football. Moreover, they must not refer to the sport's footwear as boots; they are cleats. (Boots are what you wear in the Maine woods to combat ankle-deep mud.) Nor should they call the game's apparel a kit. It's a uniform, nothing more, nothing less. Just like a field is a field (not a pitch). And a game is, well, a game (not a match). And whatever they do, self-respecting American soccer fans must refuse to utter some of the more ridiculous monikers of some of the teams in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Indeed, despite the appropriate cultural, geographical, and/or historical relevancy of most of the nicknames in the league, there are a few annoying nicknames that should never be uttered by any self-respecting American soccer fan. The geographical soundness of the Colorado Rapids moniker, for example, is canceled out by the ridiculousness of FC Dallas (FC stands for futbol club). And the historical relevance of the New England Revolution is countered by the ahistorical sham that is Real Salt Lake (besides referring to a royal heritage that offends this country's republican roots, Real doubly offends the "Talk American" rule as it is pronounced ree-al in honor of the Spanish soccer power Real Madrid).

Defend Major League Soccer

Speaking of the MLS, it is every American soccer fan's duty to defend the home-grown league. Unfortunately, though, such a defense is considered uncool by too many in the American soccer community. The league just isn't as good as those found in Europe, the argument goes. Which is true, though I'd argue the MLS is underestimated both as a league featuring stellar international players, as well as a developmental league for homegrown talent.

In the 2002 World Cup, for example, of the 23 players on the United States team that was narrowly beaten by powerhouse in Germany in the quarterfinals (the captain of the German team
conceded in March 2006 that the Germans were lucky to win the game), 15 of them were either playing in the MLS at the time or had played in the MLS. In the 2006 World Cup, 80% of the 2006 World Cup team had experience in the MLS, which is remarkable considering an undermanned American side outplayed the eventual champions, Italy, in a 1-1 draw in the first round. (Of course, they also failed to escape the first round, but that contradicts my argument, so I won't dwell on that inconvient fact as much as the heartening result against the Italians.) And this year's Olympic squad, a team whose solid performance was outweighed by a tough group, featured a roster in which players with MLS experience accounted for 15 of the 18 slots.

Moreover, the final in this year's SuperLiga, a league made up of the best teams throughout North America, featured an all-MLS final when the New England (finally) beat the Houston Dynamo. And teams comprised of the best players in the MLS have dispatched such world powers as Celtic and Chelsea en route to 5-0 record against premier international clubs over the last five years. To be sure, the MLS can truly begin to crow when its regular teams are beating the likes of Barcelona FC, but the results compiled by the MLS's best players are nonetheless remarkable.

And finally, the league is growing. Attendance is improving (games in 2007 attracted an average of 16,770 fans, with the median attendance pegged at 15,960), the league is expanding (two teams in Seattle and Philadelphia are set to join the thirteen-team league over the next two years), and more than half the teams have constructed soccer-specific stadiums (besides representing a hopeful sign for the league's long-term viability, soccer-specific stadiums enhance the viewing experience by eliminating the football lines that mar pitches fields shared with a football team and by reducing the cavernous sensation that plague teams that share stadiums with NFL teams.

Vigorously oppose diving and playacting

The scene, unfortunately, is a common one: One player challenges another for the ball and nicks the attacking player in the ankle. To be sure, there's contact. But where there's contact in soccer, too often Oscar-worthy theatrics will follow. The aggrieved player will contort his body, his face will erupt into a grimace, and his mouth will emit a hollow howl. Once on the ground, he will clutch his ankle or knee and writhe around on the ground like a juvenile throwing a tantrum. Then, after receiving the call, he'll gingerly climb to his feet, take a few steps with a slight limp, then proceed to chase the ball with full speed not ten seconds later.

Now, I can brush aside much of the criticism haters have for soccer. I am untroubled by the common complaints that the game is boring, that the players are wimpy, and that fans are un-American. The one accusation I cannot disagree with, however, is the charge that soccer players are floppers and fakers. Therefore, every American soccer fan should protest dives and play-acting with a full throat.

Fortunately, FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, has made diving a cautionable offense. But the culture still breeds such ugly behavior, and it will only leak down to the lower levels. Therefore, every American soccer fan should applaud Iranian referee Masoud Moradi, who flashed Nigeria's Chibuzor Okonkwo a yellow card for diving in the penalty box in an Olympic game this summer.

The fact that the warning was issued while Okonkwo was being hoisted off the field by a face-saving stretcher made it only that much sweeter.

(Correction: I initially defined the 'FC' in FC Dallas as "football club." It actually stands for futbol club.)

- John C.L. Morgan