Monday, July 24, 2006

Changing Tact

As the most perceptive of you have no doubt noticed the heading and description of this blog has now changed. With the World Cup over one must move on, but in what direction?

*Stay with Soccer?--Not when the three authors of this page live at great distance from intense rivalries and passion (Unless you count Chicago V. LA or Goa V. Dehli) with even fewer opportunities to watch soccer on a regular basis. (Law Student/Grad Student/English Teacher...these are not the careers designed for cable subscriptions)

*Broaden our range to all sports?--Possible, but again, unless there's a rabid audience out there for commentary on Cricket/hopeless college programs think again.

*Broaden our range to all topics, just so long as we can bicker about them?--Now there's an idea we can get behind.

Conveniently enough I've just read a book that could start debates at least between ourselves and perhaps among others as well. How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer is superbly written, eloquent, charming, personal and intelligent. It chronicles the development of socer aorund the world and it's relationship to the new global culture exploring the struggles of hooligans, the corruption of leaders (including a prediction of the fall of Juventus/AC Milan before it happened), and the opportunities now afforded to Africans, Arabs and Americans.

It's the last one that I want to mention. Foer mentions that the class/culture struggles in the U.s. can be traced (in part) to a schism between Liberal/ Yuppie/ East & West Coast/ Elitest/ Smug/ Globalized/ Soccer Fans, and Conservitive/Red Neck/ Fly over Country/ Down home/ Countryified/ Insular/ Fans of everything else. This is a simplification of course, but it's an interesting point (and besides, this is a blog, simplification is my bread and butter).

I read this and became befuddled (a nice change from my normally fuddled state), I've always lived in "Fly over country," and I like to think of myself as down-home, countryified and an Uber-fan of all things baseball/College basketball. But after thinking about it, I am hyper-liberal, upper-crust and so Gloablized that I'm part of an outsourcing of teaching positions. So naturally there's a middle ground.

So my question, veering from Soccer to everything else is this: "Can those of us with dual personalities (Red Staters with liberal beliefs and standards/Blue Staters with traditional beliefs and standards) bring harmony based on what we know and understand about both sides of the issue or are we doomed to be fenced in by Barbara Striesand on one side and the ever expanding mustache of Denny Rehberg (R-MT) on the other?"

Put it another way: "If the Moderates challenged the extremists to an atheletic olympiad who would win?" Given of course a moderate team of: Jon Stewart, Joe Biden, John McCain (maybe) and 80% of the populace against left-wing radicals led by: that white guy in College with dredlocks and a 5 foot aura of funk around him and 80 % of Hollywood, and right-wing radicals led by: The honorable Rev. Falwell and the 5 foot aura of funky bigotry around him and of course Denny Rheberg's stache.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

3 AM

So, living in India (Cricket hotbed of the world) I was surprised to find that they are just as stunned at the growing popularity of Soccer as we are in the states. Thoguh perhaps, the shouldn't be.

I was in the last throes of jetlag, semi-conscious and completely haggard when I was invited by a few native Indians who work at my new School to watch the match (at midnight local time), naturally I said yes. We were joined by two brits and later went over the match in detail with Canucks, Aussies and Kiwis (people normally obsessed with hockey and rugby).

Nevertheless there was just as much passion, joy and dismay at Zizou's jackassedness at 3 AM in a tiny town in India as there was on the Champs d'Elysses or at any Italian Piazza (except for maybe Mike).

Sure it would have been great to see Les Blus pull it off, but I'm just jetlagged enough that I'm happier to focus on fans and our glee than on the actual match itself.

Much love to all

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And then there were two...

Two snooty, vaguely irritating European countries vying for Soccer supremacy (PINCH ME!).

All in all that was some pretty exhilarating futball to see during the semis. And though most of Germany/Italy was a snoozefest, the final surges by both sides where extremely dramatic. Meanwhile, the shockingly clean calls issued by everyone's least favorite Uruguayan (the same one who hosed the US against Italy) allowed France and Portugal to play open and free. Sure there were moments of absolute terror for anyone rooting against the Flopper's Final (i.e. any moment the ball went towards Fabien Barthez) but by and large this has been a set up for some (hopefully) fantastic final matches.

Sure, there were still moments that were, quite simply, UG-ly. Sure it was hard to hear Dave O'Brien talk about Odonkor's "flaming red boots," and the 45 second close up on Frank Ribery was completely overkill. But those fleeting seconds are easily forgotten when you watch Zidane continue a magical run towards retirement and when you savor the Italian team's reenactment of Ceaser's death every few minutes.

And in true world class tournament fashion 7 beloved friends and I tore our hair out diagramming every possible match to arrive at finals that included neither Italy nor France, my beloved friend Jeff said quite simply and plainly: "France." That was his one pick, nothing more and nothing less, just "France." So ladies and gentlemen, take it from my pal the Air Force pilot and repeat after me: "Allez les Blus!" Allez Zizou! Allez Henry! Allez Ribery!


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Say it ain't sew, Zizou

On a day when old Golden Balls (age 33) calls it quits as captain of the England Team, when Cafu's (age 38?) dream of captaining his third World Cup Champion dies and on a day when Jesse Orosco (age 7,230) only struck out 2 in his semi-pro league, let us give a tilt of the beret and a swig of the Cabernet to Zizou.

I have a long-standing man-crush on Zinadine Zidane, ever since his electricfying performance in the 1998 world cup final, he's been the one player in the world on who's game I tried to model my own. His composure in midfield, the way he holds his position and excells at all the little things. I've always aspired to play that way. He was the best player on either field in Germany yesterday, and he should be something special to watch the rest of the tournament.

I think he will gracefully call it quits whether they win the world cup or not, he's not going to pull an MJ. But still, it's kind of sad to see him go when he's dominating games like this.

Whatever he decides to do after the tournament is ultimately immaterial, because the next two games he plays will be what matters. Enjoy them. *silent tear*

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A River Runs Through this Post

A river of absurdly unnecessary metaphors, but a river never the less.

In order to concur with my Norman Maclean-esque friend I have to point out a few things for everyone sitting back in horror at the prospect of an all Euro final four, and all those gasping in pain at the absence of Brasilia.

It became pretty clear within 90 minutes that the Brazil we had all come to expect in World Cup play had stayed home, sending animatronic recreations to Germany in their place. It was like watching the Walt Disney Hall of Presidents, jerky, static and completely unlike their real life counterparts.

The cliche is that a team works like a well oiled machine. The only problem with using that cliche in soccer is that machinery doesn't do the beautiful game justice. Poets do not use drill presses. (Though, you might want to check with Brent (the real poet) on that one).

So the Hall of Brazilians survived Croatia, Australia and Japan (an average though not challenging dead eyed tour group) but it was clear that they were aging. In need of a visit from "imagineers" as it were. Their flaws failed to impress the rascally Ghanaians who wreaked havoc like toddlers in the Magic Kingdom until nap time came and they went to sleep. But it held no power over the disaffected French who sat back in teenager form snobbily dismissing all the squeaking hinges. (Are you sick of that metaphor yet?)

My point is, Brazil is not in the semi-finals because (as Brent pointed out) they didn't play well enough to earn a position in the semi-finals, neither did England (or flop happy Portugal for that matter, but that's for an angrier post). There's still some beautiful football to be played, and in order to have that happen in this World Cup (as it was in most others) you have to trim the underperforming teams down until the best remain. We still have to excise the malignant, collapsing tumors from Italy and Portugal, and make do with a fairly frustrating French side, but we still have California Klinsi and the Huns to root for.

So raise a glass of whatever you're sipping on to the fine tuned, German-engineered scoring ma...chine...DANG IT! Well, cheer for them anyway, and try to come up with a better descriptor of their playing style (I'll buy you candy).