Let's Do Lunch

Food can be overrated.  Instead, what’s truly memorable about a meal is the setting. Who was I with? Where did we go? What was discussed?

Food can be overrated.

Instead, what’s truly memorable about a meal is the setting. Who was I with? Where did we go? What was discussed?

Being a devout brownbagger at the office, it takes something exceptional to breakaway for a lunch out or at least away from my desk. And this next week marks just such an occasion, to be followed by another the following day and so on, every fortnight, until late May.

Next week marks the return of Champions League lunch hours, beginning (via TV) in Liverpool (versus Inter Milan) Tuesday and moving to North London (Arsenal-Ac Milan) on Wednesday.

I can’t remember what I ate yesterday, but seared into my memory are the friends with whom I dined years ago while watching a game.

Twenty-six years ago, it was Dan, Bob and Dave for the Sounders’ road playoff win over Fort Lauderdale. In 1994, it was with my cousin Tom for the Earnie Stewart goal which clinched the World Cup upset of Colombia. And in ’99 it was a different Dan and many, many others to see Manchester United’s sensational late goals in the Champions League final against Bayern.

Meals made memorable by the company you keep more than what you actually eat.

With the impending return of Champions League fare, consider calling an old foe or friend for a midweek lunch sometime this spring. At least for a day, shed your office status of Social Zero. Come out of your cubicle and celebrate the game and the ties that bind (pun intended).

Egg salad and ESPN2 at the office, or fish and chips at the pub of choice. Pick a friend or two and give ‘em a call.

Running a Tab

If there was a method for collecting royalties on said meal, you better believe some bean counter at Man U or Real Madrid has likely concocted it.

In the latest tabulation of which clubs made the most money, Real retained its title of No. 1 in the world with reported 2006-07 income of $512 million, ahead of the Red Devils’ $384 million.

United and the other top Premier League clubs are closing ground, thanks to increasing broadcasting rights fees and by maximizing match-day opportunities. With Old Trafford expanded to 76,000 last season and virtually every game a sellout, Man U set a world record with $181 million in sales of tickets, suites, VIP packages and the like. In its first season at the Emirates Stadium Arsenal jumped from ninth to fifth in the rankings.

Accounting firm Deloitte predicts that 10 of the top 20 earners will come from the EPL in ’07-08, however that is unlikely to translate to a wide-open, 10-horse race for the Prem championship, and within Britain that’s what is really missing.

Enough already, says Sepp Blatter. The FIFA president led the chorus of jeers for the Premiership’s proposed globalization. Blatter claims the league is rich enough, and will not play games overseas as long as he is in charge. Further, he says the move could damage England’s hopes of hosting the 2018 World Cup.

Split the Gate

Manchester United will split the hefty gate with the Gunners in Saturday’s FA Cup fifth round tie. The winner of this meeting between the Premiership’s top two, available on TV at select pubs, advances to the quarterfinals. Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra return from suspensions for United while Arsenal has several key figures nursing injuries.

As for the doubleheader on Fox Sports Channel, it’s Liverpool and Chelsea, fresh from their lackluster scoreless draw, hosting Barnsley and Huddersfield Town, respectively. Huddersfield sits 54 places below the now-fortified Blues at 13th in League One, the third tier of English soccer. Chelsea will have Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and possibly John Terry back in uniform, if not in the lineup.

In an attractive Serie A offering on the tube Saturday, Roma visits Juventus (FSC, 11:30 a.m.), needing a win to have any chance of catching unbeaten Inter.

For cable subscribers getting ESPN Classic, there are same-day Champions League showings of Roma-Real Madrid (Tues., 2 p.m.) and Celtic-Barcelona (Wed., 2 p.m.), and later Wednesday night (8 p.m.) the Pan Pacific Championship gets underway in Honolulu. The Galaxy faces Gamba Osaka and Houston meets Sydney FC.


League MVP Sebastien Le Toux is among 14 Sounders under contract for the coming season. Most of the key players appear in place for the defending USL Division 1 champions…The Washington State Youth Soccer Association Commissioners’ Cup final are this weekend at Starfire. Also on to be determined by Sunday night are the semifinal pairings for the Challenge Cup and U.S. Youth Soccer State Championship Cup…D.C. United’s proposed new soccer specific stadium would be the biggest in MLS, with a capacity of 27,000 but expandable up to 35,000. It will also be the most expensive, at $150-230 million…The David Beckham barnstorming begins in Hawaii next week and continues on to Korea and China. The Galaxy added a May 13 exhibition in Edmonton against the Vancouver Whitecaps…