Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lightning Post!

So as I start writing this I am a mere 30 minutes away from the start of the US vs Ghana soccer coverage, which will determine once and for all which set of star(s) and stripes is best (spoiler alert: it is America's). Now, normally I don't care much for any game that doesn't involve bats, tackles, or slam dunks designed to humiliate your opposition. I've actually managed to get real excited about soccer. I even have a better understanding of what "offsides" is than most of the referees. FIFA could not have schemed a better way to get Americans to watch soccer.

We begin the world cup against a country we have a long history with and that most Americans can locate on a map. Better yet, America fights England (a top 5 team by some accounts) to a draw (which is somehow acceptable in soccer). So people and media are able to be rightfully optimistic about the chances for Team USA. Everyone loves a winner (and, in this case, tie-ers) so people start caring. Then America nearly gets buried by Slovenia, a country most people think is Slovakia, in the first half. All hope seems lost for American soccer until they mount an unprecedented comeback, being denied victory only due to the blinding incompetence of the Malian Referee and FIFA's refusal to actually use technology in the most important soccer games of the 4 year cycle, but more on that later. The fact the US was denied a goal on offsides was a stroke of brilliance. First, nothing gets people more riled up than being wronged by "the man". Next, people actually had to understand the rules of soccer in order to be properly outraged. The American public actually attempted to learn a rule in soccer beyond "No Hands". Finally, there was a very simple scenario for the Algeria game: Win or Go Home. I don't recall the specifics from 2006, but I do recall we had a very intricate requirement to advance (which we failed on all counts). But it was something like "win by two goals while another team ties while scoring less than three". Those type of complex rules are fair, but bad for getting people involved in the stakes of the game. Nothing is worse than a meaningless victory. Once again, America gets screwed by the referee not understanding the definition of offsides, but this time people didn't have to wait to be outrage. But then, when all hope seems lost in stoppage time, Team USA rallies and scores in the most dramatic fashion soccer can provide (scoring with two minutes in soccer is like scoring with two seconds left in football or 2 outs in baseball; you can't realistically get another scoring shot after that). Finally, Team USA wins their group for the first time in 80 years and gets a relatively easy game against Ghana rather than against Germany.

If the games had occurred in any other order, people would not be as excited as we are now. We would be concerned about and disappointed in the team if the Slovenia game was first. We would've been disappointed by the result if we played England last. We would have been apathetic if the Algerian game was anywhere else. We would've tuned out if we had drawn Germany in the round of 16. Well, I am a mere ten minutes away from the kick off now, so I will save my complaints about the World Cup for another day. For now, I am going to bask in the improbable events that led to this.

One final thought: A win here would be huge for national pride. Think how cool we'll look when we win. We would have one of the top 8 soccer teams in the world and not even act like it's a big deal. We'd just pop on our shades and walk away in slow motion

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Those Limey Fruitcakes!

Well it's that time of four year cycle again when I desperately try to care about soccer known as the World Cup. The World Cup kicks off tomorrow with the two greatest countries on Earth duking it out: Mexico and South Africa. Woo hoo? Then we get the heated rivalry between... Uruguay and France? Yay? It's hard to pinpoint why I can't get more excited about the World Cup. It's not that I hate soccer, as I was once the Grim Reaper of Soccer (which is a blog post for another time). Part of it is undoubtedly that outside of the USA & the countries I hate (I still do not understand how North Korea got into this tournament. Won't the entire team defect at the first opportunity? Barring that, won't a red card result in execution? It seems like a high risk, low reward team, although I guess an extra ration card would be pretty tempting but I digress), I do not really get many of the rivalries. I understand the winner of the match between France and Germany gets Alsace-Lorraine but besides that, very few matches mean anything. Without the bigger picture, its just a bunch of guys running up and down the field for 2 hours, maybe scoring once or twice and flopping wildly every other kick. However, just like in 2006, I will give soccer a chance & will watch as many matches as I can.

However, it is impossible for me to ignore the biggest and best match of the first round: the United States & England. This is a rematch of not only the American Revolution, but also the War of 1812. Sure, it's one thing to be a free and sovereign nation but without having a really good soccer team, what's the point?! Besides, you know, inventing much better sports such as baseball, basketball, and football. But besides that, there is a much more sinister angle to this match.

As everyone with a pulse knows, the worst oil spill in the history of all creation has been going on for the past eternity (at least in terms of news coverage). And who happens to own the oil well that won't stop leaking? British Petroleum! Like every good American, I refuse to acknowledge that there is a difference between Britain and England (Wales can suck it!). Obviously, BP is a co-conspirator with the English National Team. But how does BP destroying the Gulf Coast help the English "football" (or "footie" as they call it across the pond, as told to me by a bonafide limey) team?

"I'm here to kick ass and drink cups of tea... and I'm all out of tea!"

First, the initial oil spill is just now reaching the scenic Gulf coast, ruining the best beaches in America. Since the spill has kept spilling for weeks and weeks, the beaches could be under siege for the duration of the World Cup. This means that the World Cup has one less major competitor in the category of "Stuff to Do in the Summer". Thus, more people will tune into the World Cup. Simultaneously, the American team will be depressed because they know that even if they win the World Cup, they still won't be able to enjoy the Gulf beaches afterward. In their weakened emotional state, the American team will be vulnerable to the relentless dry humor and sarcasm of the English team. Every time we try to pass the ball, an Englishman will say "Oh yes, that seemed well practiced" or "Maybe you'll be on SportsCenter for a few seconds today". Eventually, the American team will fall to the taunting and be humiliated by the Limey Fruitcakes (that's the name of the English National Team). Since the beaches are closed down due to Oil Suffocation, a greater number (read: any) of American households will be exposed to the humiliating taunts of the Limey Fruitcakes. This will cause nationwide depression and leave us vulnerable to invasion by the hated Redcoats!

This could be Murfreesboro!

At least, that's how the English plan things will go. Of course, the United States of America has a proud history of foiling English plans. Remember the Revolutionary War? I think history will repeat itself. That is to say, we'll play hard for the first half but be hopelessly overwhelmed. Then we'll bring in a couple French players to push us over the top!

P.S. I know I said I would talk about Iron Man 2 & Robin Hood. So here are my abridged reviews

Iron Man 2- Don Cheadle is Iron Man too! Good fun, but a bit too much in love with sci-fi. You know it's bad when you're starting to lose three college aged men who love video games with your techno-babble.

Robin Hood- It's just like Gladiator in medieval England. Except for the end, when it becomes Saving Private Ryan in medieval England. Shot for shot, it is the Normandy scene from Saving Private Ryan but with armor & arrows instead of machine guns and grenades. They even have a man get set on fire.