Category Archives: sport.

landon donovan: professional whiner.

I’d give you my thoughts on the Euro final, but really it’d just be three pages of man love for Cesc Fabregas, so we can probably skip that. But I do love the man. Make him captain, Arsene!

Back to the topic at hand: the lone MLS game yesterday. Ben and I attended, and yeah, it was a thorough, well-deserved beat down by United at 4-1. The Galaxy backline looked like they would much rather be napping in the shade; it appeared as if United’s runs were beating them soundly at even half-speed. As Matt Bourque notes over at DCist, “I counted eight such instances during which a United attacker had the ball with only the keeper to beat.” It was a pretty sound whoopin’. David Beckham was marked well, and really, when he did get off a cross (and there were a couple of beauties) no one was even close to being on the end of them. For instance: Edison Buddle, when Becks is looking to pass, just run towards the net. Good things will happen.

Additionally, my firm dislike of Landon Donovan was cemented further. Will somebody tell this guy that only players that can hack it at the world class level can whine and complain like that? (See: Drogba, Didier and Ronaldo, Cristiano.) Donovan fully deserved his yellow card for dissent. And there’s no way Gallardo deserved anything more than a yellow for an incidental finger to the eye. A straight red there would have been a pretty terrible decision by the referee, who for all the heat and the national pressure, handled the game pretty well. There were a couple of incidents where I thought tackles were getting a bit too sloppy and players much too out of hand, but the game ended in relative calm. So kudos to the officials.

The argument could also be made that the MLS game was a much more exciting affair than the Euro final (as That’s On Point mentions) – but as we all know, that really has more to do with the sub par defensive quality in the American league than anything else.

Oh, yeah, and it was crazy, insane, ridiculously hot. So, about those seats at RFK – which are mostly metal, and haven’t been painted since 1864? It makes it really difficult to focus on the game when you’re worried about your ass, back, and thighs getting those griddle marks that you see on hamburgers in advertisements.

Also, will someone please remind me to start wearing sunscreen to sporting events? Thanks in advance.

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the event of the weekend.

Manchester United v. Arsenal, FA Cup 5th Round tie.

Noon, Saturday.

You know, we just have this nasty habit of breaking United fan’s hearts. Actually, it’s not that nasty, it’s quite heartwarming.

Best goal ever

Oh, and I’ll try not to break anything this time. See you at Lucky Bar!

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five goals to erase five years of war.

“Don’t worry,” said Vehgu, smiling as he screwed a seat cushion to its frame and water ran down his face. “The rain will stop, and tomorrow the sun will shine. Drogba will play. And thanks to him, our country will reunite.”

What a fascinating article. Stop reading me and go immerse yourself in the framing of a five year struggle for peace, solved by the simplest of means – a football game between nations.

See? I told you.

There are so many wonderful things about this article. First, I must thank The Beautiful Game blog for even bringing this article to my attention (and keep up the good work – the future of American soccer depends on blogging, I’m pretty sure of it). I don’t usually read Vanity Fair and to have missed this would have been a shame. I’ll tackle the immensity of this piece in two ways: from a soccer perspective and a writing lens, because it’s superb in both arenas.

Initially, I was attracted to this article through my (mostly ridiculous) rivalry with the admittedly formidable striker from the Ivory Coast, the aforementioned Didier Drogba. Drogba ripped the twine an absurd number of times (I want to say it borders on the thirties) in last year’s campaign – most notably the goal that defeated my beloved Arsenal in the Carling Cup final, crashing any hope for the Gunners to take silverware in an otherwise bland season. He is without question one of the best players in the world today.

But Drogba the player and Drogba the man are now two completely separate identities, to millions of Ivorians and now, sitting in Washington, D.C., me. He is little short of a messiah to the citizens of the Ivory Coast, where people “display their Drogbacité – their Drogba-ness.” But it is obvious that whereas the man of the hour David Beckham is as much a fashion model as he is a midfielder, Drogba is legitimately a man for all ages. His words,

“We, the Elephants, all we did was our duty as soccer players, our obligation as Ivorians. We wanted Ivorians to share our dream and see it realized—the return of peace to Ivory Coast. The most moving thing was the national anthem. All the stadium was singing and it was the first time that the two armed forces were together, face-to-face. That was the best moment of my last several weeks.”

portray a sense that the best is yet to come.

I’ll be honest. When scrolling Soccernet for scores, I tend to skim over ones that aren’t that personally interesting. I don’t think there are many people that don’t do this – we all skim stories in the paper because we don’t really care about them. I am sure that this 5-0 tie between Madagascar and the Ivory Coast was no different. But for Drogba, this moment of unification is only the next step, whereas for the remainder of the country, it is a godsend, a miracle delivered by a team in green. Drogba is not finished, and he intends to complete his mission of seeing a unified Ivory Coast with his feet and his words and his actions.

Now I know the magnitude; although why I doubted it for a moment is beyond me.

That inability to doubt is the greatness of this sport – there is such an inherent aesthetic in its components that it is impossible for the game to mean nothing. The players are sculpted from bronze, flying and sliding through the sky and turf, athletes of stature and class. The elements are embraced, not condemned as obstacles – be it snow, or rain, or immense heat, or wind. The green of the grass stains the whites of the players who pour their efforts into the dirty business of defense and guarding their goals. The creativity and agility of the strikers, speeding through the trunks of the opponents is a sight even for the most jaded of spectators. The goals, so precious, bring a jubilatory orgasm of the senses: crowds roaring, the scent of sweat and beer and release, the sight of colors celebrating the thrill of success, together.

So beautiful, it possesses the ability to cease war.

While I may root against him and his teammates in the upcoming campaign, I will always recall his guile and abilities after the match for many years to come.

Mr. Drogba, thanks for reminding me of the beauty.

Now, from a writing standpoint.

So rarely, there are stories that can be told without any work. The writer needs only to allow the descriptions to be written, and get the hell out of the way. Aside from the contextual information that is necessary to explain his presence (i.e. his service in the Peace Corps that familiarized him with the Ivory Coast), Merrill does a fantastic job of getting the hell out of the way.

But that is not to say that he is unimportant – if anything, his understanding of the living relationship between the game, the people, the nation, and the future is the most important attribute of this story. I could tell that he felt it at this juncture:

I remember watching the World Cup when I was young and marveling at Diego Maradona and the furious passion of the players and fans. But it wasn’t until I saw kids playing soccer in my Peace Corps village—barefoot, on grassless fields, with anything that might roll or bounce a bit—that I began to understand…

It is difficult for us writers to keep ourselves completely out of the story (what can I say? We have big egos). All that aside however, this is really the only time that Merrill tosses in his own story, and it only makes it better. He cheers with the crowd, mixed together. A white man from New York who writes for a magazine that is 75% fashion spreads, supposedly unbiased, cannot help but cheer on the movement of something so good.

Mr. Merrill, kudos to you – you left me wanting more, and more I will find.

I could go on, but since this post is already at three pages, I think I’ve staked my claim.

I think I’ll just go read it again.

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Filed under a big scary blogosphere!, futbol., here - reality called., required reading., sport., stories of the year.

mid-afternoon roundup: 6.18.2007

hot-dog-man.jpg

  1. The (free!) Fort Reno concert series schedule kicks off tonight in Tenleytown at 7:00 – go for Deleted Scenes, stay for the one inch button count. First one to find a Bauhaus button wins a kazoo! [Fort Reno]
  2. Finally, a decent non-conference game: “Pitt is still trying to move three games, notably Dayton, so it can play Duke Dec. 20 in New York City.” [Pitt Blather]
  3. 26 dogs? Kobayashi will destroy this woman. [WTOP]
  4. It’s fairly pathetic that Andrew Beaujon’s column comparing the ’07 Nats to the ’62 Mets – the worst team in baseball history – is the most encouraging thing about the franchise. Hey guys, we’re projected at 70-92! Awesome! (That said, it is rather enjoyable.) [City Desk]
  5. Give us this day, our daily literature: The Times’ Francis X. Clines on one man who is attempting to make “Support Our Troops” more than a magnet slogan. [NYT]

In his travels, flickr user Dan Coulter may have finally found a match for the mighty Kobayashi.

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gold cup recap: us 2-0 trinidad and tobago.

Well, to say the least, the US Men’s National Team won today. But there is a big difference between winning, and winning against a team that isn’t decimated by an odd union dispute that holds out its best players and injuries. Yes, Trinidad and Tobago was a World Cup team in 2006 (and even managed to not look awful, which can’t be said for every CONCACAF team…), but they were not only missing their players from that Cup squad, but they also lost defender Anthony Noriega (and had keeper Jan Micheal Williams shaken up) from a wicked collision with American striker Brian Ching in the 12th minute of the match.

But just as it has been for the last two years, the Americans biggest struggle in this match was the inability of forwards to finish. More thoughts and ratings after the jump…

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baseball tonight’s top ten gems ever.

just watching baseball tonight, and they ran down their top ten defensive plays of all time – and i guess i agree with most of their choices; but i must say, their selection process is a bit skewed. first off, honestly, i don’t know if you could have picked a larger category to pick from – the ten greatest defensive plays, as they put it, “ever caught on tape”, so meaning from about 1954 on. but let’s break that down. if they really meant that, it means that they were probably looking at about 25-30 games per year until about 1980, then about 60 games a year until the 90s, and then every game since then has pretty much been broadcast.

so, of the hundreds of thousands of games (just for the record, in this 2006 season alone, somewhere around 2,000 baseball games will be played, not counting spring training and the playoffs) that have been played since the dawn of baseball broadcasting on television, Baseball Tonight is probably looking at maybe 5%. and it’s probably a lot less than that. really, do you think that you could get a fair sampling of the “best defensive plays ever” if you only looked at 5% of the games? how about if you only watched 5% of the games this season? would you be able to fairly judge the best defensive plays of the season? i think not.

secondly, the list is populated with about 70% plays from the last ten years, which is patently ridiculous, of course. of the thirty plays on the list of each team’s best web gem (found here) only eight are defensive plays were made before 1988. in fact, there are almost just as many plays from the last two years as there are from before 1980.

i know, i know, ESPN isn’t the best source for an objective view of things, but i really think they’re off on this one in their method. who’s to say there wasn’t a fantastic play that wasn’t on TV? and as much as i love ozzie smith, there really shouldn’t be repeats for two teams.

that said, i did agree with their choices, for the most part. they chose willie mays’ catch in the ’54 Series as the top, and really, while i can’t argue too much, i would have definately gone with jim edmonds catch back in 1997. when i saw that catch, i knew that it would probably be the best catch i’ll ever see. and gary matthews jr. can try all he wants, but nothing for me will ever match up to that edmonds catch.

that is the best defensive play ever, no question.

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