Football is not always a beautiful game; sometimes bookings are necessary. Thankfully, we’re on hand to keep all these bookings straight. There are 34 distinct offences that the DFB considers bookable. In their honor I’ve written this paean to the punished:

We are here not to castigate but to celebrate these masters of misconduct, ballerinas of bookings, pashas of poorly-timed tackles,

[ed. note: This continues on for quite awhile with plenty of mixed metaphors and the odd off-color Madonna reference. In the interest of time, we resume now at the end]

great gurus of gratuitous violence.

Whew. Yes, it’s the return of the coveted Stefan “111 Yellow Cards in only 370 Bundesliga Games” Effenberg Memorial Trophy!

Last year
, as you might recall, the season ended with a clear victory by MSV Duisburg’s Mihai Tararache. Unfortunately he’s not on hand to defend his trophy, although he’s certainly competing for the 2. Bundesliga’s less prestigious Willi Landgraf Cup. His two fiercest rivals from last year (Mark van Bommel and Grafite) are, however, still around and off to an excellent start in this season’s campaign. One important note before looking at the table: the scoring system from last year has been changed to increasingly reward bad behavior: 1 pt for a yellow, 3 pts for the second yellow of a game, and 5 pts for a straight red to go along with the extended vacation away from the pitch.

3. Manuel Friedrich/Christian Fuchs, Leverkusen/Bochum, 4pts.
While these two have done enough to separate themselves from the throng of 3 yellow carders behind them, they haven’t done enough otherwise. There’s not enough to go on this early in the season to allow me to really choose one over the other. Both had a single yellow before earning an early shower with two more yellows in a second game. At the moment they’re just placeholders on the podium, at least until things clear up. The two players ahead of them, however, have rightly earned their positions.

2. Mark van Bommel, Bayern, 4 pts.

van Bommel gets the nod for second place ahead of Manuel Friedrich and Christian Fuchs for two reasons. First, his two yellows against Dortmund came in the span of 4 minutes. You have to admire such the dedication to his craft. He evinces it whenever he steps onto the field and right up until he’s sent off again. Second, if van Bommel didn’t play in the Bundesliga I don’t know if I’d have the heart to write up this particular column. He always manages to find a new way to both get a smile on my face and his name in the book. I have no doubt that he’ll be near the top of the table at the end of this season.

1. Fabian Ernst, Schalke, 6 pts.

It could be no one else but Schalke’s midfielder, really. He opened his account with a yellow against his former club, Werder Bremen. But his crowning 3-game-suspension-worthy moment came last week in the Revierderby against Dortmund. His sloppy (some might call it reckless and dangerous) tackle against Kuba, only minutes after teammate Christian Pander was sent off with his second of the night, really allowed Dortmund to gain a well-deserved point. The challenge for Ernst, beyond how to spend his free time in the upcoming weeks, is how to keep himself on top of this table. Straight reds might be flashy and garner you lots of style points, but they also keep you out of commission for too long to be competitive.

Don’t be surprised to see the next edition of The Bundesliga’s Most Booked headed by someone who’s quietly been collecting a yellow every game or so. Consistent indiscipline is the ultimate key to success.