Love soccer but bored of repetitive statistics? Anxious for soccer insights but weary of banal analysis? Desperate for soccer scuttlebutt but tired of trite commentaries? Then hit up the blog, “The Toe Poke,” a revealing, behind the scenes, sardonic and ludicrous twist on the world of soccer as told by Chris Wright, “an editor over at Who Ate All The Pies and a Nottingham Forest fan, presumably for something unspeakable he did in a former life.” You will be glad you did.
Wright deftly utilizes witty headlines, intelligent and clever verbiage, and sarcastic banter with his videos and pictures, to capture hilarious and often misfortunate events that mainstream soccer overlooks or ignores. In doing so, he provides soccer aficionados with insights, depths, character and humor sorely missing from conventional reporting. For instance, some recent posts included: new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, the “Special One,” becoming a character in a new children’s cartoon show and having his own trading card game; Liverpool’s new-signee, Kolo Toure, offering to change the spelling of his name after an obsessive fan misspelled Kolo’s name when the fan tattooed it on his foot; and the Twitter backlash received by Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor after his crunching tackle on One Direction star Louis Tomlinson during a charity match. At the conclusion of the 2012/13 club season, “The Toe Poke” published a list of the most unbelievable and hilariously improbable story lines of the year.
The Toe Poke’s top 10 list includes: Messi vs. the Robokeeper, a bronze sculpture of Mario Balotelli, and “to zlatanate” or dominate
Given its lighthearted but acerbic bent, it’s difficult to believe that The Toe Poke is actually part of the monolithic and monopolistic ESPN, the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Utilizing its own brand of manifest destiny, ESPN has expanded its stranglehold on the sports world to capture the escalating national interest in domestic and international soccer through the development of ESPNFC, their official webpage dedicated to coverage of all things soccer. While the soccer-specific site offers a wide range of blogs and garners an escalating audience for its high-quality coverage of teams, players, competitions and tactics, it is the antics revealed only in The Toe Poke that provide such a deliciously enjoyable feast and raises the prestige of the ESPNFC brand. The Toe Poke is akin to the blog form of ESPN’s infamous “Not Top 10,” a video segment depicting the top 10 worst sports moments of the past week. Adding The Toe Poke to ESPN’s blogosphere was a shrewd maneuver by ESPN because the blog, focused primarily on the ludicrous and ridiculous moments in the soccer world, provides relatable and entertaining content for the novice and experienced fan alike, enabling ESPN to attract new and retain dedicated soccer fans to increase traffic to its site. The Toe Poke’s pleasurable 24/7 up-to-date content helps increase ESPN’s market share, adding yet more credulity to its claim of sports world domination.
The Toe Poke is not for the staid soccer fan. Wright provides little or no analysis of player data or team statistics, like passing accuracy, completion attempts, interceptions, tackles and the like. Yet the omitted detailed and dry data pales against the hard-hitting insights revealed about how certain management members scout other teams by hiding in a tree spying on training sessions, the deft and skill required to execute a superb ‘group effort‘ own-goal, and a group of fan’s commitment to support their team in any way possible. The beauty of The Toe Poke is that it offers a respite from the greater sphere of ESPNFC blogs which minutely and insipidly detail every managerial decision, tactical change, and goal scored since the advent of the sport. No reading induced coma will ever occur from following this blog.
One can criticize Wright’s approach by claiming that The Toe Poke merely compiles and shares trivial but entertaining tidbits of soccer news that a hardcore or even casual fan would most likely not hear or care about. While there may be some truth to that view, and it is precisely the point of the blog, a fair inquiry could hardly stop there. By exposing and scrutinizing the foolish, naive, and grandiose nature of the world of soccer, specifically the over-the-top antics committed by fans, managers, and players, Wright humanizes and personalizes the sport and its characters and endears them to the American public. For Wright, soccer and its constituents are not any more or less deserving of derision or pedestal treatment than the rest of the world: soccer is merely a sport comprised of flailing humans who live and operate in the real world, complete with blemishes, flaws and frailties. Wright’s commentaries, anecdotes and perspectives offer entertainment to be sure, but the real foothold provided by The Toe Poke is to make soccer more accessible to the public who may not fully understand or appreciate the sport. Whether a reader is looking for entertaining content or a unique outlook on the game, Chris Wright’s The Toe Poke is the blog to check for all things wacky in the world of soccer.
Chris Wright and his comedic soccer stylings can be followed at @waatpies on Twitter.