Thursday, September 20, 2007

Un Problema de Egos (el hombre especial se ha ido)

As all two or three (depending on the day) of Balompie Blog's readers are no doubt aware, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has either been fired or has quit. It's one of those surprising-even-though-it-shouldn't-be-surprising stories. I think the shock comes from the timing. Conventional wisdom would suggest that several weeks into the season (and after the start of the Champion's League) is not the ideal time to make a managerial change. Yet, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is a different sort, to say the least. Looks like he'll pursue his pal Guus Hiddink to replace Jose, while former Israel coach Avram Grant will temporarily take the helm. Whither Jose? Well, with Portugal manager Luiz Felipe Scolari banned for the remainder of Euro 2008 qualifying, looks like the answer will be to Portugal.

But, a strange affair all around. Betraying my sports allegiances, this ugly breakup brings to mind two American sports owners that resemble Abramovich and his personality conflict with his manager: (1) Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, particularly when Jimmie Johnson left after a clash of egos; and, (2) Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, particularly when Don Nelson decided to leave the team, largely due to personality clashes with the owner.

From the fans's perspective, is it better to have a deep-pocketed, yet hands-on manager, or one who stays in the background? The NFL's Dallas Cowboys have been mediocre at best post-Johnson (save for the year following Johnson's departure), and part of that has to be due to the constant meddling of the owner. And a decade on, he still hasn't learned his lesson: Note that Jones, after a week 1 victory over the NY Giants this year, decided to award the game ball to his new coach. Ever heard of owners deciding who gets awarded game balls? Mark Cuban has flirted with dooming his team, but has, to date, easily been a net positive influence on the Mavericks franchise. Recall that the Mavs were plumb awful prior to his arrival. Plus, he has had the good sense to retain and listen to his president of basketball operations, Donnie Nelson, Jr., an immensely sensible move that has certainly proven to be wise.

Given Abramovich's propensity for roster tampering, he strikes me as the Jerry Jones sort, which bodes poorly for Chelsea fans. They could recover and take the league title this year, but I suspect they won't. They've lost their identity after all. And while, with their talent, they might be able to quickly find a new one, or succeed even without one, I think the transition hiccup will put them too far behind. We'll see though...

--Break Break--

Another excellent MLS matchup for ESPN's "MLS Primetime [Editor's note: primetime for West Coast only] Thursday." This week, FC Dallas vs. the Chicago Fire, Fire! I'll get my first look live at both Blanco and Denilson, which is reason enough to watch. But, also, FC Dallas is generally entertaining, if defensively suspect. Now, let's just hope that the WNBA finishes on time and we get to watch the entire game.

Finally, good, if not especially insightful, Dempsey article from here.

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