KN, p. 110 “Death at the Soccer Pitch”

Warning: part of this post may be too intense for some readers.


In soccer, the ‘pitch’ is the field upon which the game is played. The USA, Canada, and Australia call it soccer. To most of the rest of the world, the sport is called football.


Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Period. Second place? Cricket.




Over 710 million people worldwide watched the final match held in Germany in 2010. We tried to get tickets for at least one of the weeks of the month-long finals that year, but by the time we could make travel plans, we discovered that they had been sold out for over a year. This year’s finals will be held in Brazil, beginning on June 12th and ending a month later in July.

The World Cup Finals are held every four years, with over 200 teams from around the world competing for more than two years to narrow the field to the 32 teams that reach the Finals. The level of play during the competition is amazing, with headers and kicks and jaw-dropping goals that look physically impossible to make.



The team and fan rivalry is enthusiastic and can sometimes be intense. Sometimes, fans get so caught up in the moment that they lose all sense of reason if a call goes against their favorite player or team.


In 2013, a referee expelled a player from a game, a fight broke out and the referee in Brazil mortally stabbed the player. When friends and family of the player found out that he had died on the way to the hospital, they charged onto the field and stoned the ref to death. Then they quartered his body. They took his head and put it on a pike in the middle of the field. That’s not a typo, folks.


Just about a month ago, some fans were so annoyed by play at a match that they started tossing toilet bowls at the opposition fans. Yup, ripped out the plumbing and threw it, killing someone in the process.



Law enforcement agencies and fans of the sport have been working for several years to reduce the number of incidents, occasionally emptying stadiums before a match is finished so that a game can be completed without further harm coming to players or refs or the fans themselves. Serious scrutiny of various underlying causes for the riots, crowd mentality, and sometimes criminal behavior has even caused a change in how the games are played and/or policed.



I love the sport, and even played on the varsity soccer team when I was a kid, so I am not knocking the pure beauty of the game. People just get carried away from time to time, forgetting that it is in fact, just a game we play for exercise, sport and/or entertainment. Many of the top players in the world, in this pre-World Cup week, have said in interviews that they want to provide great entertainment for the fans. Of course they also want to win, but hooligans are not invited to the show.


We won’t be in Brazil this month, so we’ll have to be happy catching a match or two on TV. Plus, I have my ’94 World Cup t-shirt to wear whenever the USA plays.  😉



If you are lucky enough to watch some of the matches in person, here are some tips to remain safe and happy while you’re there. They work for any large sporting event, not just the World Cup.


  • If they are demonstrating against the World Cup, stay away from the protest.
  • If you want to take pictures of people, make sure to ask first.
  • Leave your valuable jewelry at home.


  • Take a taxi or walk with a group or a trusted guide.
  • Do not flash around your cash, iphone, ipad and/or cameras. You can use them, but then, cover them up.
  • Don’t take your valuables to the beach.
  • Drink bottled water.
  • Don’t get drunk, but if you’re going out, don’t bring your credit card and smartphone with you. Take some cash, bring the address from the hotel, and a copy of your passport.


Stay safe and have loads of fun watching the best soccer players in the world compete.


*Photos by Patti Phillips







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KN, p. 109 “Murder and Other Crimes at the Racetrack”


(Note: From the 2014 archives)

It’s Triple Crown season in the horseracing world.


The 140th Kentucky Derby took place on the first weekend in May, the Preakness ran May 17th and the Belmont Stakes (the last of the three races that make up the Triple Crown) will be held this coming weekend. The last horse that won the top prize in horse racing was Affirmed (in 1978) and California Chrome has a shot at the crown this time. There is a stable full of money to be won or lost – the first place purse at the Derby alone was over $1.4 million this year.


With stakes this high, tempers are bound to flare, arguments over how to train a horse to win will be frequent, and cheating at all levels in all areas of the sport has been attempted in the past. Unscrupulous trainers or desperate owners may try to dope a horse to enhance its speed or even disguise injuries with drugs so that the horse can race one last time. This is less likely to happen during the big races because of the increased scrutiny from all sides. But, to deal with any abuse of the animals or the betting system and even conditions for the jockeys themselves, each state has a Racing Commission that oversees and regulates the integrity of the sport and hands out penalties to offenders throughout the season if needed.

See for information about the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.


Great jockeys matched with superior horses can be a goldmine for the owner and the jockey percentage of the purse can be substantial. That winning purse at the Derby that brought the owner over a million? The winning jockey made $142,000. that day.  If jockeys finish in one of the top three spots in a big race, they receive 10% of the purse for the day – thousands in most cases. Outside the top three at a smaller track? They might get $100. for the ride. That disparity is the source of intense rivalry for the best rides.




The day after the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby (2012), a trainer’s groom was found dead behind a barn at Churchill Downs. The murder (or possibly reckless homicide) was never solved, so nobody can say for sure whether his death was related to racing or to a nasty argument over something else entirely.

Cathy Scott, a crime writer, covered the original story:

Homicide detectives followed as many leads as they could, but it’s a cold case.


People all over the world bet on the outcome of the Triple Crown. Some base their bets on the jockeys, on the stables where the horse comes from, on the horse itself, even on the conditions of the track. Me? If I watch a race on TV, I choose the horse based on its cool name or on the colors of silks the jockey wears. Not a foolproof system, but I’m not a bettor. I just like to watch the horses run.


Big money and fierce competition both on and off the track – what could possibly go wrong?


*Photos by Patti Phillips – of an unnamed, great looking horse from her files.  🙂





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KN, p. 97 “Crime at the Olympics”


We love to watch the Winter Olympics. Our family is full of expert skiers, so the downhill races are always a ‘must see’ for us. I could go on and on about the best kind of snow, the best temperatures, the gotta-have-it clothing and equipment, but that’s for another forum.  


Why is the 2014 Olympics at Sochi a topic for Kerrian’s Notebook? Ever since I found out that Interpol (the international police organization) is being paid $20 million dollars to oversee some of the security for the event, that’s why. My cop radar went up and I thought: Interpol? Murder? Terrorism? Nope. Turns out that Interpol will investigate the possibility of athletes taking illegal drugs, any suspected match-fixing, as well as attempts to bribe the officials. The International Olympic Committee is concerned about the integrity of the Games and Interpol, which gathers reports from national police forces around the world, will be on top of any hints of wrongdoing in those areas.

So, who is taking care of the security for the athletes? The Russian security forces, with some help from the competing countries. They are in full view and quite comforting to people nervous about attacks from terrorist cells. The host country always has primary responsibility for security, but each participating country provides some additional support. The United States teams will be accompanied to each of the venues by diplomatic security personnel. I just heard that there will be two U.S. ships in the Black Sea during the Games, should they be needed.

Many families of competitors are staying home because of fear that security will be less than hoped for outside the Olympic venue and some of the countries are telling their athletes to stay away from downtown Sochi. The USA team has been advised not to wear their uniforms outside the Village, for fear of being targeted by terrorists. But the perimeter of the Olympic Village where the majority of the athletes stay is guarded by a combined police/army/agents presence of about 100,000.

The high profile crimes are pretty much covered by the agencies overseeing the Games, but it’s the petty crimes that are most likely to be forgotten about by visitors and athletes alike. Large crowds all over the world are targets for pickpockets, and it just takes a slight adjustment in the daily routine to keep theft from happening. Simple steps to take:

Try to wear jackets with zipper pockets and keep your valuables safely zipped out of sight.

2.    2. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket.

3.    3. Gals, don’t carry a pocketbook.

4.    4. Don’t flash your room keys. They usually identify what hotel you’re staying in along with the room number.

5.    5. Travel in twos or more.

6.    6. Don’t flash wads of cash.

7.    7. Stay sober.

Most of the competing athletes have already been at the site for a week or two, prepping and training and getting used to the venue. The body needs to adjust to food and weather differences before major competitions and this is also the time when problems with the snow and ice surfaces can be detected and corrected.

The opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held on February 7th even though competition actually begins on the 6th. There’s a nine hour time difference between the USA east coast and Sochi, so many of the events will be broadcast-delayed in order to satisfy the viewing audience.

For additional information about security and safety at the Games, see:

*Kerrian is a fictional character, but the Olympics and security measures being taken are fact.

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