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what i watched last week

these are different times

Early this morning, I sent out the following tweet:

“These are different times: I'm watching Man City-Man U live in HD on Telemundo, Andres Cantor at the mic.”

There are a lot of markers packed into that sentence, to demonstrate how times have changed. I’m watching the top Premier League matchup of the week on television … live … in hi-def … in Spanish … with Andres Cantor … while on Twitter.

There was a time when I would never see Premier League matches live on TV, much less in HD, much less with Spanish-language commentating. (Further note on that: Cantor was joined by Sammy Sadovnik, another favorite of mine. And the English-language play-by-play guy, Arlo White, is also very good. And that’s another sign of changing times: good English-language soccer announcers in the USA.)

Meanwhile, as much of the soccer-fan universe was watching the same match, I noted Simon Gleave tweeting. I knew him from the days when Usenet was a popular place for online communities (another thing that has changed). In 1994, Gleave had put together guides to the World Cup and then the Premier League (“Shaggy’s Guide to the FA Premiership”). I can’t over-emphasize how valuable those guides were, especially for an American like me who had so little contact with soccer once USA ‘94 was over. MLS hadn’t begun yet … European leagues were never on our TV … mostly we got Mexican League matches on the Spanish-language channels.

Gleave has worked for Infostrada Sports for more than a decade as Head of Analysis (I think I’ve got this right), and is one of the most creative soccer analysts out there. I thought I could impress my nephew, who works as an analyst for the Earthquakes, if I found some evidence of me and Gleave from those bygone years.

I found a Usenet thread, Reading’s Goalkeeper, from September of 1994. The first message was from “Shaggy” (Gleave’s pen name in those days), telling us he’d seen a match that weekend, Reading v. Sheffield United, where he had found “a real star of the future”. It was Reading’s goalkeeper, Shaka Hislop. My contribution to the discussion was minimal … I was glad Shaggy had mentioned Hislop’s height, because the English wire services of the day always referred to Hislop as the “giant keeper”.

But this is about how times change. Shaggy may have overstated Hislop’s excellence, but Shaka had a pretty good career. He was in fact named Reading’s Player of the Year in 1994-95. He also played for Newcastle United, West Ham United, and Portsmouth, before finishing his career in MLS. And he made 26 appearances for the Trinidad & Tobago national team. Nowadays, you can find Hislop working as an analyst for ESPN.

In nineteen years, we’ve gone from few matches on U.S. television, information sparsely doled out, hanging out on Usenet, to a zillion matches on U.S. television, information at our fingertips, and Twitter allowing for real-time discussions.

Oh, and that part where I thought I could impress my nephew? When I tagged Simon Gleave in a tweet, he replied, “Are you related to Sean Rubio of San Jose Earthquakes fame?” I tried to impress Sean, and I ended up being the one who was impressed.

(Some things don’t change. I was listening to Cantor today, and I was listening to Cantor in 1994. The only difference is, he changed networks along the way.)