Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Brazilian

I have always wondered about this and never gotten a real answer. This comes close but doesn't really tell us why.

Rub It in

If you didn't know, that is where I grew up. Although there is no place called "Destin Beach." Maybe he meant to say "From the beach in Destin." But I wander from the topic. This isn't just near where I grew up, or like where I grew up. Nope, this is it. I can tell you how to get to that spot on bicycle from the batch plant on Joe's Bayou. That is local. Or should I say, that is hitting close to home.

I suppose this video has been making the rounds recently. The reason it is so popular, I would guess, is that it features an irresponsible mother allowing her children to swim in an oil spill. That is pretty dumb, but it isn't the dumbest thing I have seen on that very beach. Tourists swim when red flags are out and snow birds jump in in the dead of winter. Spring breakers take videos from their hotel rooms of people swimming with sharks, unaware that they are present, and laugh. This of course before they get drunk and fall off of balconies. I figure these people paid for their vacation and are by God determined to have them. I don't like them but I can understand them. Driving down to the Gulf is one of the vacations that fit into their budgets. They save up and they come down and they want to buy cheap t-shirts and splash in the water. Sharks and currents and temperature and oil be damned.

(A brief aside to this woman's raw stupidity: For a brief few years when I was young, the house next to ours was rented to a bunch of real south Alabama rednecks. The older brother would practice juggling hatchets in the front yard and they all had ADD and wanted to grow up to be Baptist preachers. One day the youngest son, threw a rock, which must have been when they rebuilt the street because we don't have rocks in Florida, and hit me in the eye. I ended up in the hospital and sported an eye patch for a week or so. But, as I lay their collapsed and crying, the father ran out of the house and said in all earnestness, "Rub some sand in it." So no this woman doesn't surprise me.)

But there is dumber by far than any of these things going on in this video and sadder by a long shot. As the Michael Jackson movie says, "This is It." This is what years of saying no to drilling and "Save our Shores" gets you in the end. No more cutting school to head to the beach. No more welcome home shrimp boils or church fish fries. No more saying to people, "Yeah, this is a nice beach, but I am spoiled, mine is the best in the world." No more "hey look there are dolphins out today." Or giant manta rays. Because, even the most ardent, carbon conserving environmentalist can have that part of their lives cut out like a rotten wisdom tooth if someone else, someone with more power is willing to gamble all of those things for a private jet and a yacht to race.

My grandmother always talked about how it wasn't as rough for them during the Depression because they always had the Gulf. It wasn't like the economy was going to stop them from catching fish. So people with enough pluck and mobility moved to Destin and started over, or at least got by. And now, in our new Depression? Well, our patrimony was confiscated and sold on credit to people who didn't need it anyway. I have always argued that even though I believe in cost benefit analysis and environmental economics, I am, when it comes down to it, a Sand County Almanac environmentalist. Water parks aren't fun for me and I don't mind a long walk if there is something to see. I don't think I am that special in this respect. I just wish people with power would realize that oil spills aren't an excuse to stop drilling, they are a reason. That pollution isn't a silly buzzwords that hippies mutter between joints, it is something that gets in the way of our weddings and our homecomings and our funerals and our church benefits and our jobs and our futures.

If someone told people that they had to burn a sea turtle or shoot a dolphin to get their SUV to start they wouldn't have the guts to do it, but Americans are cowards by proxy, we are good at a distance. I can't understand that abstraction but I am sure I have made it myself. Me, who doesn't own a car but will fly across the Pacific and throw away plastic bags. Maybe I should do my penance and walk down to the river and strangle a duck. "Just rub it in." She says laughing.

Maradonna - Live is Life

You know, for all the ways that this guy is a ridiculous boor, I have to think that we are better off having him around. What a nutter.

And here he is at 45, doing it again.

One Goal

I'm guessing you have already seen this. It is pretty amazing. I was watching in the middle of the night at my house. The stream went out and I could only get one in Arabic. The announcer fell silent during the goal and the point didn't go up on the scoreboard so I thought it was going to be disallowed. I called Ed who's stream was 3 minutes late and so had no idea what I was talking about.

I will agree with what I said before, a hard task I know to confirm yourself, and state that I don't believe in the idea of a "national character" but that something like that is expressed by teams in the World Cup. I am again glad at the face that the USMNT presents. Before I commented on their diversity and back stories but again, a real American playing style is showing itself. Hard charging, direct, and tenacious. I do think their is something to the way teams like Italy, France and to a certain degree England have crumbled mentally and emotionally while the USA in the face of reffing miscues and defensive blunders have remained mentally strong and fought back. The U.S. brand of football gets citicesed as not technical or creative, but I like it. It is the kind of football I grew up playing and the way I tell people to play. I think it is a style.

I should point out that despite the reactions in the USA being moving, when I talk about wanting the USMNT to gain respect, really don't care so much about within the US, although that is nice, I want football fans around the world to understand how the game is played in The States. Moreover, that it is played in The States.

Friday, June 18, 2010

USA vs. Slovenia

So much free time, so little bloggeration. Could it be the overtaking of secret projects. The undertaking? Who knows. Could it be that I am avoiding writing about BP and the Gulf so I can avoid thinking about it? Sounds promising. Fortunately we are deep in the thrall of the World Cup, the good old Mundial. And here I sit with something approximating month long jet lag from watching too much of the bouncing, bouncing ball.

There are many disparate opinions out there on the USMNT's performance against jolly old England. I was happy with the dog fight. What was expected? Pretty soccer. No. That wasn't ever happening. People will protest that Onyewu was coming too far out of the goal, but with all the randomness involved, who knows? He was also stopping plays from developing. The British press, ready to lionize its....lions, instead retreated into their misery, attributing the entire debacle to their keeper. But it wasn't poor Green and his kitchen mitts. Was it not Gerrard who let Deuce jerk him like a chicken to get that meandering shot off? It was. Lion indeed.

Next up, Slovenia. I small Slavic country that plays a lot like the Americans, only slower and with less size and power. Don't mistake me, they can win. Anyone can win. We have seen how this tournament is going. There is a large outcry for Torres's inclusion in the starting 11. I count myself among that chorus, but I see the arguments to stick with Clark. If Slovenia goes up a goal early, they will park the bus, but the Club on it, poor sand in the gas tank and put it up on cinder blocks. No fun for anyone.

Against this kind of defense, Dempsey's ball control and ability to take on defenders will be front and center. Donovan can take on defenders but it is usually at speed and I don't know how much space will be created. I would like to see Buddle in and taking shots on goal, but Altidore has showed the ability to run past stationery center-backs.

I will have to run directly from our show tonight to some bar to catch the game. I am just looking to get through the show and go. I think that the USA should be able to pull this off, but you never know when your opposition has a strong keeper and a disciplined defense. If the USA can get this, I like their chances to go for goal differential against Algeria while England faces Slovenia.

I want to start referring to Torres as "Pocket Xaxi." Is that okay? Give me the credit. Let's do this.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Well, here we are. The rosters are out. The chips are bought. I think I am staying in so that I don't weep in front of strangers which ever way this goes. This is a hard emotional attachment to explain but I very clearly remember its beginning, jumping up and down on my couch in 1994 as the USA dropped Columbia. It was the most American I had ever felt and I loved yelling for my country and meaning it.

I was fortunate enough to be in the stadium in Suwon in 2002 when Portugal fell and I sulked through 2006. And here it is. The U.S. versus England. It doesn't determine the whole cup. It doesn't mean everything. When Ed and I got back from Korea, full of all the exhilaration of history, our English friend brushed it off, "But that was just a fluke really, wasn't it?" Of course my stake in this game isn't so petty, but it would be nice for those of us who grew up playing the game to not have to put up with condescension and derision from those who grew up watching it on TV and therefore feel more knowledgeable. Hubris is a fat straw and it is usually America that is having to bend over and suck hard at it. Not in this case. I, as usual, wish the English team well. I very much want them to win the World Cup. I think bursting their little bubble will be just the thing to put them over the edge.

My prediction?

USA 2 England 1

It could go any myriad of ways. It could get sloppy and out of control. It could very easily be a tie. Somehow I just see it happening.

Prepare your stanky leg.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Goal, A Ghost

A great piece by ESPN.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why the World Cup Matters

Although I have been thinking on this for a bit, I am going to write it in a hurry. Why? Out the door soon for Mexico vs. South Africa.

In its construction I think it is mostly a list of reasons why I shouldn't love the World Cup. I think that asking the global south to fund a circus to entertain the global north, especially when it is being hosted by the country with the highest income gap in the world, is unconscionable. I have said before that the confines of saying one is from a certain nation are being strained in this age. I also disagree with overhyping national characters which have little bearing on reality.

Then why do I like, no, love and support the World Cup? Especially considering that I am fairly lukewarm when it comes to the Olympics with all of its housewife pandering pageantry and niche sports emerging from hibernation. I don't mean to insult the Olympics. At times I love them and I certainly enjoyed attending them in Atlanta. I think there is something to be said for the World Cup only featuring one sport. And that sport truly being a world sport. Even with its travel teams and development schools soccer is a game that can be played by poor people as well as rich people anywhere anytime. All you need is a ball or some friends with a ball. It is truly a sport that requires no explanation on most corners of the earth. Those corners turn their attention every four years to the World Cup.

How does that take the event beyond mere spectacle? Even though I discount the idea of a national character, some degree of said non-existent substance starts to emerge in the development of a nation side. Why? Good question. Because each country is responsible for developing its own talent and hiring a manager and administrating the program. So we find things like a Japanese side who seem so reluctant to take a shot without asking for permission. Or a South Korean team who would rather play in a turban of gauze covered in blood than lose to the US. We have the historic German teams who played with robotic precision and Brazilian squads filled with former street kids winking at there own cleverness. A national soccer team presents a face for the country and where they are at that point in time. A face that is different than the one presented by the political leadership or the national media. The only reason I know that Germany's immigration laws have begun to get more reasonable is that they now have the children of Turkish immigrants playing for their team. Was it not the drama of a North African Arab leading France, who had been resistant to people like him even existing, that lead his country to the championship?

That is the overwhelming reason that I love the team that represents my country. I love that their last names are not only Donovan and Dempsey but Torres, Bocanegra, Onyewu and Altidore. I am very happy that is the America that the rest of the world will be looking at for the next few weeks. An American team who is know for coming out and playing hard for 90 minutes and giving everything they have, not stopping to flop and not afraid to bleed. I am ecstatic that one of the greatest stars America has ever produced comes from a trailer park in Nacogdoches. I am thrilled that one of our forwards left his starting position in England to make sure his family in Haiti were all accounted for. I am very glad that our starting center back was forced to stay in college by his Nigerian immigrant parents.

Often as Americans we are represented abroad by politicians who don't speak for us and represented by movies whose characters don't represent us. Our professional athletes to a large degree have reached such upper levels of class that they no longer resemble humans. For a few weeks every four year I feel that there are a group of guys out there who do, in some way, speak for me. Is that ridiculous?

I would be remiss in not pointing out that I feel the same thing applies to other teams. Who better displays the perilous state of Honduran politics than their football team, and who isn't touched when their fans said to US fans after both had qualified to go to the World Cup, "Let's go there together."? Who can hate Didier Drogba, who was born in France but fiercely stands up for his heritage in Cote d'Ivoire, giving significant amounts of his fortune to build hospitals? Does it not invoke history to ponder why the Australian team has so many Croats playing for it? I love the World Cup completely and unapologetically. So should you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup: Players to Watch

I suppose it would be easy to draw up a list of super stars and say "Follow them!" However, I want to single out a few players that I will be excited to watch and possibly you will help me keep track of their exploits. Should I try for eleven since that is a good soccer number? Okay, but it won't be by position.

(A brief note: The computer I mainly used is unable to produce sound, so I hadn't noticed DMX's excessively homophobic track over the Taiwo clip. DMX is a moron.)

1. Taye Taiwo- Nigeria LB

I am really high on this left footed left back. I am partial to speed players with booming shots. He also takes free kicks. Pundits moan the dearth of African creativity, but I find running straight past people to be rather clever. He plays for Marseilles.

2. Giovanni Dos Santos- Mexico MF

Again, speed kills and I seem to be a sucker for it. Watch this guy destroy France. It will happen. This 21 year-old plies his trade at Galatasaray.

3. Tim Cahill- Australia MF

He is labeled as a midfielder but will probably play as a withdrawn striker. I hate this guy so much when I don't want his team to win, but doesn't that mean he is a good player? Cahill plays with the mental attitude, the tenacity and drive that I wish every footballer had. Would he not fit in perfectly on the American team? Wait for him to get a goal just from always showing up wherever the ball is. Also, quality tattoos. Play at Everton.

4. Zeljko Brkic- Serbia Keeper

But wait, he didn't make the team!!! For shame. I saw this guy play live against Japan and he was some freakish keeper android. His goal kicks were literally played as set pieces around the other teams penalty box. I was very much looking forward to watching him get robotic. Maybe you can catch him at FK Vojvodina.

5. Marcus Tulio Tanaka- Japan DF

How much more ruckus can this F'r cause? He scores against England and then score for England against Japan later in the same game. Then he flying knees Africa's greatest hope straight onto the surgery table. He is a bull in a China shop and that is what Japan needs as the rest of the players are trying to wrap the China properly and fit it delicately into a gift bag. He plays up the road at Nagoya Grampus.

6. Mesut Ozil- Germany MF

Look at the name again. Now look at the country. Something has changed. Yes, in fact the immigration laws of Germany have changed making people born in Germany of Turkish heritage into the real Germans that they are. So now people who would have played for Turkey can play for Germany. As much as I hate to root for the bastards, watch this kid burn. He is going to be a star. Straight out of Werder Bremen.

7. Kevin Prince Boateng- Ghana FW

Speaking of Germany, Boateng grew up in Germany, the son of immigrants from Ghana and choose to play for his parents country after playing for Germany's youth squad. Not so odd you say. However, his brother remains a player on the German World Cup squad. Curious. More dramatic still, it was Boateng who took out German uber captain Michael Ballack, rendering him unable to play in any more World Cups. Drama from the man from Portsmouth.

8. Jong Tae-Se North Korea FW

They call him "The People's Rooney." Not just because he is built like an Asian brick layer, but because he also likes to lay bricks. In fact he pledges to score a goal a game at this tournament. Unfortunately North Korea's entire strategy consists of parking the bus and throwing away the keys. Jong plays ball for Kawasaki Frontale. Why? Because he was born and raised in Nagoya. He went to college in Japan as well. But it was a North Korean college. Since his parent are Korean immigrants, he could not become a Japanese citizen so he took North Korea's offer. Curious.

9. Park Ji Sung- South Korea MF

Speaking of a divided Korea, here is a real super star popping up on the list. Sorry, but Park Ji Sung is probably my favorite player in the world right now and I would be remiss in leaving him out. Nicknamed "Third Lung", Park is all over the pitch, all the time. He is tireless and speedy. He has abbout the best work rate I have ever seen in the game and plays all out. I love the dude and there is no need to point out that he plays for Man. U.

10. Wilson Palacios- Honduras MF

He is a big, reckless defensive midfielder who sometimes gets his team in trouble by flat out running over dudes. Witness Nani in the penalty box. As an American I feel some responsibility to pull for Honduras. Not that it is a chore, but that somehow we are in this together. Honduras might have more technical ability but he symbolizes the effort and drive that I love about CONCACAF. Watch him knock fools around for the Tottenham Hotspur.

11. Neven Subotic- Serbia DF

Two Serbs on one list! An inherent bias. The only thing about this Serb, other than that he actually made the squad is that he is an American. Well, pretty much. He could have been and maybe his paperwork is. Although he wasn't born in the U.S.(He was actually born in Bosnia) he grew up there and was discovered there, playing football in a park, much like Jozy Altidore. Subotic came up through the U.S. system and played for the under 20 team. He is now one of the more sought after defenders in Europe. He will always be the fish that slipped of the hook. I can't be mad at the guy for feeling he wants to play for his parents country, but it would have been great to have him. For now he plays his club ball at Borussia Dortmund.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My 5 Favorite Types of Goals

With the World Cup upon us, there are many subjects I would like to tackle (all ball, of course) but I am being outdone on many different fronts. Again, I must recommend The Shin Guardian as the absolute best blog out there right now. Their review of England vs. USA tactics is light years beyond anything that CNNSI or ESPN, both of which I am a fan of, are even considering right now.

There are a lot of lists out there of best goals floating around out there. I want to do a little different take on that theme. I want to present my 5 Favorite Types of Goals. We can call them out when they show up in the WC. You can also tell me why I am wrong and which kinds you prefer. No one ever really takes me up on this kind of participation however.

Let's begin from my favorite at #1

#1 Balls Out Counter Attack

Is it any coincidence that this is the kind of goal that my beloved USMNT specializes in? Probably. Why is this my favorite? I think because the kind of soccer that I prefer is all-out effort soccer. Trying to play defense and get numbers and then burn. It also requires good passing, but not subtle passing. Also, watching live, it takes a few seconds to transpire and builds up to a will it happen or won't it moment. Lovely.

#2 Long Range Bomb

Do I even have to qualify this? Who doesn't like this stuff. I worry that maybe it is a little to American, like always wanting fireworks after the home run. Yet, in baseball I prefer the well laid bunt. No, I think shots like this are wonderful because they require rare ability and sick confidence. "Here I am 25 yard out with a few guys in front of me and the keeper in the goal. Why wouldn't I shoot?" Lovely.

#3 WTF!?

"Now, that is just a long range bomb," you might protest. But, no. You would be wrong. It is just that these kinds of goals generally have to take place at distance as there is no real room for them to happen in the box. Too many dudes to spoil the funk. Excessive taint of normalcy. Plus, they aren't bombs. They were just goals taken by guys who are sure that the rules of the universe are optional and for who "I just thought I'd give it a try" is a creed. Good on you fellows. Lovely.

#4 Miserable Failure Own Goals

Who doesn't love them? Remind me to tell you about mine some day. Not my fault. Jeff Agoos? All his fault. Lovely.

#5 Chilavert!!!!!

Who didn't love this complete bad-ass straight outta Paraguay. Sadly he is retired from the world of football but he graced it for long enough to leave us spell-bound. Take that every other keeper ever! Lovely.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Not Even I Can Endorse This

I saw an add for this in a station or on a train somewhere last week, and thought "that can't be true." Apparently it was. How, in any way, even by my lax moral standards can this be considered okay?

U.S. History

Here is an essential read on the history of the USA in the World Cup. Complete with rad photo.

Hatoyama: Whither Though Goest

You would have thought that the earth stopped spinning and the sun had failed to rise and the overenthusiastic reaction to Prime Minister Hatoyama's resignation yesterday. Wait, no, that was in some bizzaro universe where Japanese people care about politics and Japanese politicians care about people. Here, in reality, neither of these things are true. Japanese people care about shopping and Japanese politicians care about preserving a largely hereditary hierarchy. If you will remember 8 months ago, after the elections I stated that I didn't think it would really matter. I could get a little excited that the dam in Gunma was suspended and that Futenma might be halted. Also there was slight talk about immigration reform, but really, what is going to change. Very little changes very slowly in Japan. Hatoyama, who received payments of $175,000 a month from his mother to support his political career was a soft child of privilege who had little business running his country. His successor? Lather, rinse, repeat. If it was truly the Futenma issue that brought him down then wasn't he toppling anyway? If the U.S. military can boss you around in your own country, are you the leader? As I have said to anyone who asks, bases in Okinawa, Futenma included, aren't really a U.S. versus Japan issue as much as they are a Tokyo versus Okinawa issue. If Tokyo wants the bases, put them in Tokyo, if not have the courage to say no to the Americans.

When any leader leaves, the speculation begins over who might replace them. I don't care. It will just be a copy of a copy of a copy until something actually changes.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.