Mike Lantry, 1972
It seems the best way to shore up your average comment count is to declare that the World Cup is of interest and that you intend to post on it. It also helps if you then mis-date the next day's post so that the shocking revelation that you are some sort of hippie euro-snob fairy remains at or near the top of the blog for all red-white-and-blue blooded to see and fret over. If you, the blogger, do this, then you will return to see the soccer-sucks-no-it-doesn't sniping has bloomed like algae across any surface it can attach itself to. It's so bad that other noted college football bloggers have retreated to obscurer interwebs in a (thwarted) attempt to avoid serious loss of street cred.
In a way this fevered bitch (H!IKM!) is no suprise. A brief survey of essentially any country in the world that isn't this one or Canada will reveal that the game lends itself to mad passion better than any other. Generally this results in bickering between two fanbases representing different teams, but in the United States the camps are divided over the game itself. On the one side are people like Tom Power:
No one who actually is from here cares about the most over-hyped, mind-numbingly boring event in the world.
Thirty years after soccer was supposed to be the next thing here, ESPN and ABC will attempt to "educate" as well as entertain American viewers during the World Cup, according to an article in Sunday's paper. The arrogance is astounding. The networks still are subscribing to the tired old chestnut that Americans aren't interested in soccer because we don't understand it.
All that tactical beauty is somehow slipping past us. We aren't smart enough to understand the nuances involved in the most popular game in the world.
In fact, just the opposite is true. We don't like soccer because we do understand it. And it's awful.
Etc., etc. It's the same column you've read a dozen times every four years, hitting all the high spots:
- OMG soccer is boring!!!
- OMG soccer fans are loco nuts man!!!
- OMG ferrigners is teh dumbs!!!
- USA Number One! Hotdog sauce!
A large number of these arguments showed up in the comments -- though to be fair to the commenters they had the decency to not be published by a major newspaper -- and I'm here to say that all these criticisms are completely accurate. Soccer, by in large, is boring. Soccer fans, and by "soccer fans" I and everyone else means "English soccer fans," are not people you want to invite into your house. Ferrigners are by and large teh dumbs. And, of course, USA Number One. Hotdog sauce.
For a large portion of my life I could have written the same column, though undoubtedly it would have had much more wit and savoir faire. I came to soccer young as a participant -- five or six, playing on shrunken fields with shrunken goals and no goalies -- but late as a spectator. I was fifteen when I watched a soccer game for the first time. The United States was playing in the World Cup, and I looked upon a game that had previously always been accompanied by water bottles and orange quarters with somewhat alarmed interest: you mean people watch this? On TV? After the US went out, soccer disappeared from my consciousness entirely for eight years. No Doc Martens-clad hooligan I.
So why bother? First you have to accept that there is this... thing about the game. Tom Power refuses to believe that there is any such power possessed by the game, chalking it all up to ferrigner stupidity:
It's time to quit apologizing and tell the truth. When it comes to soccer, we're right, and the rest of the world is wrong. If they want to dance in the streets of Cameroon or Belgium over this stuff, fine. But the sport does not suit American taste, and we should stop feeling guilty about it.
If this is you and your opinion, than we can speak no more of this, as I will lose. You are free to click somewhere else and spend your time more productively. But I submit that in the case of soccer, billions of people can't be wrong by definition.
All right: so we accept that there is a mysterious thing about soccer. There are mysterious things about all sports that persist to this day. They have survived because they appeal to certain facets of human nature. The truly dull things, aside from auto racing, have shuffled off the mortal coil. But that doesn't mean they're all the same thing. As anyone who's watched Sportscenter can tell you, baseball is intolerably dull without context. Literally nothing happens in a baseball game that you haven't seen a thousand times before: a strikeout, a diving catch, a homerun. Baseball's big moments are all about timing or numbers. It's a game of familiarity. Basketball provides a constant stream of moments both good and bad, but even the most spectacular play is only two points of a hundred. Both sports offer thousands of little compartmentalized events of minor signficance and string them together like beads on a rosary.
On the other hand, soccer and hockey* -- soccer's spiritual cousin and frequently a fellow object of American sportswriter ridicule -- are games that flow from one end to the other, steady as the ocean. This is the boring bit. A lot of nothing happens in any hockey or soccer game. This is granted. At any one point in either game, someone has the ball at a certain point and all that muck that happened before may as well have not existed. But if you will permit me to be zen for a moment, a scaffold of anticipation is built from the nothingness. Where your rosary sports feed you little bits of feedback all the time, with soccer and hockey there is nothing apart from great giant thunderbolts that bring feast or famine, with nothing in-between. The infrequency of these events, the unlikely ways in which they come about (there are no Ronaldinhos or Ovechkins in rosary sports because they restrict heroes to realms of the possible), and the sheer power of them lend them the same sort of magic that caused early men to dream up the idea of gods in the first place. It makes a lot of sense that the most infamous play in soccer history is called "The Hand Of God." These things are a religion, and watching them is a vigil, as anyone who's sat through four overtimes knows. It isn't for everyone, but if you can stand the nothing then your reward is the occasional moment when everything comes together that sears itself in your mind and lingers on like an old friend.
Which is why when I close my eyes I can see Eric Nystrom pass back to Jed Ortmeyer; I can see Charles Woodson slice through a morass of bodies into the great white open air; and, yes, I can see Robbie Keane blasting a ball past -- through -- Oliver Kahn long after all hope had gone. When it comes to religion, you've either got some or you don't. Myself, I say hallelujah.
*(Football is left out of this equation as its genius is that it takes all the mucking-about-in-midfield/neutral-zone stuff and remembers it. This turns every play into something relevant for the future. You are here on yard Y because of plays X,Y,Z, and everything else that happened after the last score. Each score is the culmination of everything that goes before it. When you can combine total relevancy with the moment of spine-mangling horror when a corner jumps an out and the ball hangs in the air as God decides which team he will favor this day, you are cooking.
By the way, God always pick
s Notre Dame.)
This is very annoying, but when you name your blog this...
... you get a link, even if you do hang out in libraries even though you're completely illiterate. Also annoying-for-harming-precious-stereotypes: the 614, which is in English despite being written by an Ohio State undergrad. Well-written English!
Gentlemen, start your rankings. Scout and Rivals have released their initial top 100 lists. Joey has been kind enough to compile players of interest for Michigan fans. Of note are some vast differences of opinion: depending on who you listen to, Michigan DT Joseph Barksdale is either OMG shirtless #17 (Rivals) or not worthy of a top 100 ranking (Scout).
Joey also missed a few, and since I just had this lying around I may as well be redundant:
|Ronald Johnson||CB||#20||#17||Presumptive favorite|
|Toney Clemons||WR||NR||#85||Presumptive favorite|
|Dionte Allen||CB||#33||NR||Presumptive favorite|
|Michael Williams||CB||NR||#56||Repeatedly stated a top two of Michigan and Notre Dame.|
|John Clay||RB||#66||#12||Lists us but still awaits an offer; probably Wisconsin.|
|Lee Ziemba||OT||#37||#35||Visited recently. Has serious interest.|
|Martez Wilson||DE||#21||#18||Chicago-area recruit; lists Michigan among leaders. Still open.|
|Donovan Warren||QB||#52||#50||Services agree! No idea on destination.|
|Lorenzo Edwards||QB||NR||#53||Continually lists us; seems unlikely.|
|Marshall Jones||S||#54||#60||In top five; seems likely to stay on West Coast.|
|Junior Hemingway||QB||NR||#95||Camper last year who at one time seemed a good bet to commit early. May be backing off of that.|
|Dave Molk||OL||NR||#91||I have no idea who this guy is.|
|Joseph Barksdale||DT||#17||NR||Could go anywhere.|
As you can see, the Scout list likes prospective Michigan commitments better and is therefore declared correct. Rivals has many chance to revise its horrible erroneous, er, errors into a more pleasing configuration before it's all said and done.
Sweet Jesus. Offseason boredom is beginning to drive prominent bloggers completely flapjack nuts. EDSBS presents its upcoming season preview... in form of Powerpoint. I... I... er. Okay. The good bit about Orson forgoing all pretense of sanity is that the trip down is hi-larious. Meanwhile, Golden Tornado is busy determining whether or not every mascot in America sucks. Michigan's complete failure to have one should help: we are talking about mascots here.
Maybe GT can use the following abomination provided by reader Josiah Q, who has a pleasingly Old-Testament name and a desire to cause strokes in elderly Michigan fans:
Something you must know: Tennessee's Jim Bob Cooter was arrested for DUI. God willing, this was a moonshine incident.
A simple link addition to the sidebar somehow resulted in the bottom half of my template getting eaten. Thanks, Blogger!
I am in the process of reconstructing things.
Update: Should be back to normal thanks to the Google cache.
So I get these emails from the Pittsburgh Sports Report from time to time with recruiting nuggets. These are not reproduced anywhere on the Internet to my knowledge, so linking to them on the board is not possible. Thus: I reprint here and then link. Yay.
First, PA WR/TE John Ditto is off the board:
"He is a little confused right now," according to Gateway coach Terry Smith. "But it's a good headache. He is going to choose from two excellent schools."
The two excellent schools in question are Pittsburgh and Penn State, believed by Smith to be the last two standing from an offer list of nearly three dozen. "Pitt, Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State are the final four," says Smith, "but I think it's going to be local."
Second, MI WR Taurian Washington told PSR that his top three are Michigan, MSU, and Wisconsin:
Washington is scheduled to attend camp at Michigan and Michigan State over the summer, and has unofficially named those two as well as Wisconsin as the early leaders for his service. Expect a decision from him before the end of summer.
I'll take that tradeoff: Washington is generally thought to be iffy on Michigan, but that top three and his school being noted Michigan pipeline OLSM would make a Washington commit probable.
...you're about to be really pissed off about large swaths of the content on this blog, because the World Cup starts on Friday and hooooo boy there is going to be some soccer postin'. Michigan news will be relayed as appropriate as well, of course, but prepare for World Cup stuff.
The latest piece of evidence that the Internet is a wonderful thing came about from my perusal of a NYT article on Barca wizard Ronaldinho. Therein I found this passage:
Ronaldinho received the ball in the center of midfield, 15 yards from the Chelsea penalty area. Around him were four Chelsea defenders. Ronaldinho left one of them for dead and avoided two more. The fourth, the last man standing between him and glory, was John Terry. Ronaldinho's response was to do what he does better than anybody else: the unthinkable. Having mesmerized the Chelsea ranks with the speed of his feet and the swerve of his dancing hips, he met brute force with brute force â€” and won. He shouldered the English Goliath â€” perfectly fairly â€” to the ground. And it was from this abject vantage that London's finest looked on, a picture of defeat, as the samba-loving Brazilian whipped the ball low and true, past the Chelsea goalkeeper and into the net.
Naturally, I wanted to see this thing for myself. A quick "Ronaldinho Chelsea" search later on YouTube and I have the thing in Spanish, French, English, something I don't recognize, the form of a fake Mastercard ad backed by the Decemberists, and Arabic... oh, Arabic:
When I heard the Arabic equivalent for "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAL," I quite literally burst from my seat and ran into the next room, propelled by mad laughter. The score is now Internet 1,220,450, Cotton Gin 0.
...then why don't you have a game tonight?
6/2/2006 - Pistons 78-95 Heat - Gone Fishin'
I live by a few simple guidelines. One: never be nice to people who don't deserve it. Two: buy anything on sale at the grocery store. Three: basketball brings woe. It is a vicious thing to care about. There's nothing so maddening as watching two teams take shots of seemingly identical quality and having all of the wrong ones go in, especially when you are an engineery type who can barely restrain yourself from screaming to the world at large that you understand there is no law of averages but there could be a first-born son involved if someone could maybe impose one for, say, the next hour or so in a specific place with a lot of Cubans and tools in white t-shirts.
But that's not why the Pistons will find themselves photoshopped onto some sportfishing boat or another next to a surprised Charles Barkley tonight, damned by their own hands and the tortously errant shots said hands launched. While game six seemed like a sort of cosmic middle finger, the Pistons were straight-up beat down in three other games of the series. That placed them squarely on a precipice where, say, the unpleasantly linked concepts of "Jason Williams" and "10 of 12" result in what will be a long, unpleasant offseason plunge.
No doubt the sort of person -- let's call him "Lew from Warren" -- who attributes all victories to some sort of triumph of the human spirit is feverishly calling into sports talk radio shows to decry the lack of same displayed by the Pistons over the past couple weeks, but as the sort of person who thinks Lew from Warren should be shot into space, I (unsuprisingly) disagree. The Pistons were defeated not because they were lax or cocky, but because they were badly outcoached and, as a result, outplayed. The human spirit can only take one so far when the offense is reduced to running the same ineffective screens time and again that have been scouted and largely defeated, when Ben Wallace's impact on the game comes mainly at the free throw line, when everyone not named Tayshaun Prince shoots like they need the bricks for a new garage.
In retrospect, the turning point in the East came when Pat Riley unceremoniously axed Stan van Gundy and brought the concentrated evil of his slicked-back hair back to NBA sidelines. Riley is an unpleasant, demanding man -- think of him in the mornings, greasing his hair with an evil glint in his eye, barking out orders to imaginary underlings, his eye subtly twitching as the consumed souls that power his earthly incarnation make futile bids for freedom -- who carved an imposing defensive team out of Wade, a decrepit 320 pound center, Jason Williams, Udonis Haslem, and Antoine Walker(!!!). Riley watched the tape, devised a plan, and obliterated the Piston offense. There was not much of a riposte from Saunders other than to look on grimly.
The Heat were a soft team when they struggled through the opening portion of the season, but Pat Riley is a hard man. The Pistons were a hard team under Carlisle and Brown, but Flip Saunders is a soft man. And thus goes a series.
More than a series was lost, however. At some point towards the end of the season, Ben Wallace went crazy. Maybe he can't stand Flip's offensive emphasis. Maybe he can't abide being treated like Michael Ruffin. Maybe he knows what I've feared all year: his skills are eroding, and quickly. I don't know what happened, but when Jason Maxiell made a crunch-time appearance sometime late in the season and it turned out it was because Wallace refused to go into the game things started to go awry. Wallace started bitching in the papers. He was outplayed by Sideshow Varejao against Cleveland. Even the devastating block against Shaq in game five only served to highlight how invisible he had been in games one through four.
Now he faces free agency, and one of two things will happen: he will get a cap-crippling offer from a very dumb team and take it, or he will not and he will resign. Option 1 will cause me to throw things at the television the first time I see Ben wearing anything other than a Detroit uniform. Option two will result in years of watching Ben decline. Trekkies have a term for this situation: Kobayashi Maru. It won't be the same without him, but it probably won't be the same with him either. And how am I supposed to deal with that?