Monday, July 31, 2006

I Want Pat Gillick in My Fantasy League


You ever play in a fantasy sports "keeper" league where certain owners always seem to be 'building for the future,' 'stockpiling' ''prospects'' for the 'future?' (Which leads to such things as trading, oh, say, Albert Pujols for David Wright and Scott Kazmir...actually, that trade would be Gillick's best day...) Well luckily for the duct-taped together Yankees, so do they...Seriously, the best you could get for a borderline All-Star (well, not this year, but still) and a decent starters were a few minor-leaguers (not really even prospects, just some random minor leaguers, it seems.) Did Cashman have to throw in a few cases of beer, a few jock-straps and a bucket of BP fungoes to make the numbers work?

What it comes down to, of course, is money. Because the Yanks can eat the remaining two-years and gazillion dollars on Abreu's contract...GAH! I can't go on...

(But there is good news. After Kris Benson was traded by the Mets, Abreu fills a certain void recently lacking in tabloid-saturated NYC...)

((And the worst part of it is, if the Sawx had taken care of business and been 7-10 games up like they should have been, considering the Yankees injuries, it probably wouldn't have mattered...PigF****r.))

Friday, July 28, 2006

Your Floyd Landis Update

Via Deadspin, it would appear that Landis' "positive" test means rather less than the sensationalists would have you believe:
His ratio of testosterone/epitestosterone was high; they test for this because if you are testosterone doping (i.e., through patches etc.) it will mess up your ratio, which for most folks is normally around 1:1 but can be higher for endurance athletes. This year the UCI has changed the trigger ratio from 6:1 to 4:1.

Problem is, it's a ratio (and you economists out there know the problem of drawing inferences about X and Y separately by looking at the ratio X/Y). According to the reports I've read this afternoon, Landis' ratio was high not because of high testosterone; his testosterone was at normal levels, but his epitestosterone levels were extremely low. Epitestosterone cannot be turned into testosterone in the body. So it's possible that the result is from too low a Y and not a too high X.

How can this be? Two of the things that can affect epitestosterone are alcohol and cortisone. We know that Landis had a beer the night before the stage because he was so upset at his bonking on that stage. We also know that Landis is legally taking cortisone shots for his half-dead hip.
So, my next question is WTF is up with Phonak throwing him under the tour bus? Anyway, read the whole thing.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Wish

I could say that this came as a complete shock
Tour de France champion Floyd Landis tested positive for high levels of testosterone during the race, his Phonak team said Thursday on its Web site, raising questions about his victory. . . The Swiss-based Phonak team said it was notified by the UCI on Wednesday that Landis' sample showed "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone" when he was tested after stage 17 of the race last Thursday.
I'm not sure there's anyone with even a passing knowledge of cycling that didn't at least entertain the possibility that Floyd 'loaded up' before Stage 17. I'm not saying he did it (yes he has a lot of Testosterone, anyone who completes the TDF needing hip replacement is All Man. Obviously), but is anyone really surprised?

Of course, I'm on record as not really caring about 'doping,' but I'm just about the only one.

As a side note, one of the myriad books I have open, Baseball Between the Numbers posits that there is a benefit to be gained from steroid use, but based on before/after splits of players caught juicing, the effect is an improvement of 1-2% for hitters, while much less (and statistically insignificant) for pitchers. Too early to tell, really, but it confirms what I've suspected - roids inhibit almost as many players as they help. Don't believe all the hype.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Just Call Me...

Massive headwound Headcold Harry. Phlegm is me. Yech.

Update 7/27: Thanks for the kind words. And the unkind words too, Bill. Feeling much better today.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sawx Weekend Pilgrimage: 1-2. Worse, No Papelbon

A few more or less random observations from the Seattle-BoSox weekend.

1. Ichiro is absolutely unique as a baseball player. I'm not sure the sheer oddness of his hitting style comes through on TV, but it is unquestionably effective. It seems like he went about 17 for 13 over the weekend. I know that's not possible, but like Chuck Norris or Jack Bauer he bends reality to his whims.

2. Speaking of the Norris/Bauer debate, the new Roadhouse DVD is worth renting just for the Kevin Smith/Scott Mosier commentary track, where they gleefully praise the awfulness of the film, mixing in similar observations: "Dalton doesn't go hunting because 'hunting' implies the possibility of failure. Dalton goes killing." This is a trend I heartily support - commentary tracks devoted to carving the movie to pieces, almost MST3K style.

3. Downtown Seattle has a distinct urine smell when the temperature rises abouve 90. Yech. There are also a lot of hills. It's not fun to walk up hills in 95+ degree heat after drinking beers at an Englishman's pace for the entirety of a ball game. (During the second game, I was seated next to a Briton, wearing a canary yellow Arsenal jersey no less and we chatted about sports, European and American for the whole game while buying each other massively overpriced MGD's. Good times. Except...)

4. Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez are awful. Tavarez came in and immediately a pretty decent debut outing from Young Kason Gabbard on Saturday.

5. I may have found the coolest store ever, near Safeco field: Ebbets Field Flannels, authentic throwbacks to all kinds of long forgotten teams - the '65 Alakska Goldpanners, the 1892 Lebanon Pretzel Eaters(!) and, the truly awsome 1939 New York Knights, check the right sleeve...

Some pretty sweet stuff, I must say. (Minnesotans, perhaps the Minneapolis Millers might catch your fancy.)

6. Varitek's homerun of J.J. Putz with 2 out in the 9th might be the farthest I've ever seen a ball hit in person. They said 398, but hogwash, it hit the facing above the cafe in right field, having just stopped rising.

7. Getting beat by the awful Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson sucks - I've never seen a walkoff homerun in person, and it's not a lot of fun as an opposing fan. (Speaking of, I'd wager that the support was 60-40 or 65-35 in favor of the Mariners all three games. Red Sox Nation was in force)

8. Worst part about the middle relief sucking in every game was no Papelbon. I even got asked by confused Mariner fans "who the hell is Papelbon" as I trudged out of Safeco with #58 on my back.

Friday, July 21, 2006

I Speel Goot

So dashing off a post on the way to the airport leads to funny things. Like inventing words. Pilgrimamge? WTF? It also leads to the dreaded Bad Travel Karma. The shortest route from Anchorage to Seattle is, at least according to Alaska Airlines, via Fairbanks.

If that doesn't seem like it makes that much sense, let me tell you

It doesn't. (For the truly geographically challenged, Seattle is south-east of that green area some of us like to describe alternatively as Canadia, Hockeyland, Eh? or simply the 51st state.)

But that only works if you sit in the wonderful Fairbanks 'International' (too where, exactly?) Airport, which was built in approximate 1895, and hasn't changed any of the air filters since that time, as my sinuses can attest.

At that point, you may witness what I like to call The Dumbest Thing ever - while waiting on the jetway just outside the plane, (since the gate agent wants us to get on the plane and out of her hair as much as we do, she's not bothering with that boarding by rows thing. If you need extra time or are travelling with small children, tough shit) a guy starts cutting in line. On the jetway. Repeatedly. (Later, I realise this sitting directly behind me when I am startled to discover his face leaning over my shoulder to watch my DVD player along with me.)

TDE is then nearly repeated when another, not obviously related (though possibly equally drunk) gentlemen attemps to jump the strangely mamoth cab queue in Seattle. After strangling him with my headphones*, throwing the body in the trunk and telling the cabbie "Downtown, and step on it!" I just miss my anticipated 5:30 arrival time by checking in at 11:30.

Thankfully, my good mood was restored as they replayed Slappy von Chokenstein airmailing a throw home approximately 15 and 20 times on the late Sportscenter. It's Zen-like, the ability of comical Yankees plays to calm me.

So, off to Safeco. Ridiculous the amount of Sawx gear in downtown Seattle today. The Nation, on the march. As my only pregame comment, I note that it's a bad sign when your starting pitcher is wearing a Royals cap in the media shot.

Yikes. I mean "GO, KYLE SNYDER!"

* This may or may not have actually occurred. As anyone who has travelled with a head cold will tell you, reality was a bit more of a fluid concept than usual.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pilgrimamge, Part One

Off to Seattle to see the Sawx play three, posting may be light. If it helps you get through the day, pretend I said witty things and laugh appropriately.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Global Domination Continues

My vast blogging empire expands once again

Life Goal Achieved

Like about 4,000 others, I responded to Bill Simmons's request for help in picking an English soccer team to support. Well, he's made his choice (h/t anon (sign your comments, please kids...)), and it's Spurs, as I advised. Not only that, but he quotes me:
American Comparison: As one reader explains, "If the Dodgers had stayed in Brooklyn, they'd be the Spurs."
[Blah blah blah. Read all of what I said here]

--Seth, Anchorage, Alaska
I think it's a mark of a weakness in my character that I'm this excited about being Sports Guy approved. I'm such a tool.

Second Opinions

Ok, I liked Pirates of the Caribean II. But in the interests of balanced coverage (via the Monkey of the Fu that Kungs), here's someone who didn't much care for it:

Hey, he's a ninja, who am I to argue?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Just Because


Fiasco In the Making? (Bookblogging #14 - 'Fiasco')

One of the previews before Pirates II (ARRRR!) was for the latest Kevin Costner bombflick, 'The Guardian.' I say "bomb" because it has several characteristics of the films described in "Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops:"

  1. A series of production delays - part of the filming was to be done in New Orleans, then moved to Shreveport for obvious reasons. Location shooting was also planned for Kodiak, Alaska, but apparently locating Costner's massive forehead (and even more massive ego) this far north for a month or more at a time would cause the Earth's rotation to become unbalanced, forcing a game of interstellar marbles. And nobody wants that, right?
  2. Filming on water. One might think that people would learn that filming on open water is hard. It's probably no accident that more than 20% of the films discussed in "Fiasco" went massively over budget, in part due to watery sets. (Even successful aquatic films have this problem) Of coure, it would be hard to have a movie about the Coast Guard without using water - I might suggest that's a reason not to make a Coast Guard 'blockbuster'.
  3. Kevin Costner - the overriding commanality in movie disasters is ego/hubris either at the studio, directorial or most commonly star level. Costner is absolutely notorious in this regard. Who else would try to followup "Waterworld" with the freaking Postman? Perhaps the theory was that if you kept remaking The Road Warrior, you'd eventually get it right...

Of course I could be wrong and this one could blow up (destroying my HSX portfolio in the process...bastards...)

You may have noticed that I'm well into this post without really discussing James Robert Parrish's book itself. There's a reason for that - the less said about the book, the better. There is a certain irony in a book catalogging the sins of various studio disasters, top of nearly every list being some iteration of "it's not there on the page," wherein the writing of the work is alternatively leaden, overwrought or dry. How can you spend 20 pages discussing Showgirls and get nary a laugh?

Or perhaps I'm just so used to blog-quality snark that Parrish can't keep up. But it really is inexcusable to tackle such a schadenfreude-rich topic so joylessly.

Pooh's View: Skip it. If it wasn't for the 50 in 50, I wouldn't have finished it myself.

Worries - A Wedding Bleg

No, not mine, simmer down out there...

As I may have alluded to previously, Papa Pooh is getting hitched in a few weeks. Having, per usual, procrastinated, I need to come up with some kind of toast. I'm afraid I'm going to brick, and choose the wrong joke for this particular audience - though given this crowd, that one could go either way...

So, any one out there with experience at this sort of thing, tips on how to make it short, sweet and with just the right amount of "awwwwww." Hook a Pooh up, yo...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pirates of the Caribean II: Ludicrous, Absurd, Fun

First of all, I think it's a Good Sign for the financial success of a movie if a theatre (at a multiplex where it is showing on 3+ screens) is full for an 8:30 showing on the Sunday night two weeks after the film's release. I haven't been tracking, but they are assuredly making a bundle.

And they largely deserve it - the film is pure live-action cartoon. An especially over the top cartoon at that. Depp has added a pinch of Arthur to his dragqueen/Keith Richards stew, and Jack Davenport seems to enjoy not having to play the square this time around. Orlando Bloom doesn't have much to do except swing a sword and remind my sister that he played Legolas (which seems to be plenty for exactly half of the audience. I hear he's very short in real life...)

This genre of half-camp action flicks demands memorable villains, and replacing Geoffrey Rush's 'Captain Barbosa' was going to be a challenge. Davey Jones, and his ship "The Flying Dutchman" and his, er, pet achieve this, and perhaps more.

Beyond the special effects and performances, the movie is just fun. You half expect the audience, call-and-response style, to answer every piratical "arrrrr" with a massed "ayyyyy." Or that could be why my neigbors looked at me funny on the way out...

Pooh's View: Superb popcorn fare. Bergman or Scoresese it's not, but it has much more modest aspirations, easily achieved.

(As a postscript, nothing gets one in the mood for a good "event movie" better than some kickass previews...sweet jeebus (Michael Bay! Gilbert Gottfried as StarScream?!?) did they get it right here, though I liked this one better the first time.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Right Book at the Wrong Time - "The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro" (Bookblogging #13)

[N]ot all fairytales have happy endings. Just like not all miracles last forever
- Joe McGinnis, last line of "The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro"

In response to a long ago recomendation from Bill, and to quell my post-World Cup soccer detox shakes, I finally picked up "The Miracle of Castel di Sangro" by Joe McGinnis...and didn't really put it down until I was finished. First of all I very much enjoy the "Season Inside" sports book. Second, soccer, probably better than any team sport, lends itself to intriguing dramatic arcs over the course of a season - part of that is related to the 'squad system', 11 play, the rest largely do not. A much starker contrast to someone's minutes going up or down. Second, the game itself is almost inherently irreducable to simple statistics or a book score. Each match is its own novella in many ways, with heros, villains and themes emerging endogenously.

But those structural factors don't capture the maginificence of this story - it is the perfect example of the cliche about the movie no one would make, because it is too unbelievable. A team from a backwater town of 5,000 in a region of Italy that seems analagous to darkest West Virginia rises to the second level of Italian football, the Serie B - imagine Juneau, Alaska playing ACC Basketball. McGinnis, having caught the madness that is soccer fandom during the 1994 World Cup in the USA, decides to move to Castel di Sangro for the entirety of the teams first season following promotion from Serie C1 to Serie B. Speaking not a word of Italian, and having never been off the beaten Milan/Rome/Venice tourist trail he is welcomed with varying degrees of openess by the town, the team and management. (As for the last group, suffice it to say that describing one as involved in the scare-quoted "construction business" means much the same thing in the Abruzzo region of Italy as it would in say northern New Jersey.)

What unfolds is an almost magical tale as McGinnis becomes something of a team mascot (the scritorre Americano brings good luck, according to the players), and the team becomes something of a family. All sports teams are 'families' to some degree - some more functional than others - but in Castel di Sangro, McGinnis discovers a group which lives up to the very best connatations of the word.

Along the way, American directness co-exists (and often collides) with what might be stereotypically be termed Italian subtlety and cunning (one of the players reminds the author that Italy is not only the birthplace of Dante, but of Machievelli as well.) The results range from the humorous to the tragic - and the final reversal is as incongrous and jarring as was the capstone to Zidane's glittering career. Il Calcio has a way of reminding us that reality trumps romance all too often.

Though when I finished, I was once again feeling Just Not Right, I can't recomend this book highly enough.

"Brick"-tastic Update

Despite this, I got the job. You may resume your regularly scheduled breathing...

In seriousness, it's nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as, come October, I'll be out of that curious form of quasi-poverty known only by the overeducated.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I Don't Care If You Don't Want to Here It

Closed circuit to Tuesdays With Torii:

Let Me Just Say...

That I'm glad I've retired from discussing politics, because if I hadn't this might be the kind of thing that would really, really piss me right off.

Any congresscritter voting for this is essentially saying "Mr. President, I suck at my job, can you handle it on top of yours?"

Actually, Specter is an Italian name right? Close enough...

(no of course I'm not advocating headbutting a sitting Senator. But headbutt jokes are the rage these days...) (.gif via Fletch E. Fletcher)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Pen Is Mightier...

Since I'm on record as enjoying a good judicial bench-slap, I'd be remiss in not passing this (.pdf) along:
Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins.
But, they are extremely cuddly, enjoy long walks on the beach, like teddy bears and ice cream and always tell their mothers that they love them. Sadly, for the offending Esquires, the court was not done with them just yet...

After this remarkably long walk on a short legal pier, having received no useful guidance whatever from either party, the Court has endeavored, primarily based upon its affection for both counsel, but also out of its own sense of morbid curiosity, to resolve what it perceived to be the legal issue presented. Despite the waste of perfectly good crayon seen in both parties' briefing (and the inexplicable odor of wet dog emanating from such) the Court believes it has satisfactorily resolved this matter. . .

At this juncture, Plaintiff retains, albeit seemingly to his befuddlement and/or consternation, a maritime law cause of action versus his alleged [employer]. However, it is well known around these parts that [employer's] lawyer is equally likable and has been writing crisply in ink since the second grade. Some old-timers even spin yarns of an ability to type. The Court cannot speak to the veracity of such loose talk, but out of caution, the Court suggests that Plaintiff's lovable counsel had best upgrade to a nice shiny No. 2 pencil or at least sharpen what's left of the stubs of his crayons for what remains of this heart- stopping, spine-tingling action.

DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS (clap clap clap clap)

This last bit may be offsides:
In either case, the Court cautions Plaintiff's counsel not to run with a sharpened writing utensil in hand--he could put his eye out.
He'll be crying himself to sleep tonight on his huge pillah...

(via Unfogged and LGM. As a commenter at Unfogged added:
All your motion are belong to us. Counsel for both parties are pwned. It is so ordered.
Good god, I'm a dork sometimes...)

Just Add Coase

Following up on yesterday's post on the ongoing discussion of the CleanFlix court case, I just wanted to add one more point on the failure of IP law as it currently stands.

First, per Coase, I posit that in the absence of transactions costs, the initial allocation of property rights doesn't especially matter, as things will find, through the market, their highest-value use. However, one completely predictable effect of a byzantine system of copywrites, patents and trademarks as practiced in the U.S. is to geometrically increase the transactions costs concerning these rights - it's difficult enough to even find who might 'own' the property. And then we get fiascos where an obviously original work of art is stymied, and the creativity shown is punished rather than lauded.

Further, as I said before, one of the reasons I have little problem with CleanFlix is that they pay for their 'raw materials' (the original film) - in no way am I suggesting that 'fair use' should equal 'free use'. If The Grey Album was ever sold commercially, damn right that Jay-Z and whoever owns the publishing rigths to The White Album (EMI, it turns out. Feh...) should get a cut. But just as the lumber yard shouldn't have veto power over the design of my house...

Obviously, it's also important for authorship to remain clear and distinct - (which test CleanFlix also passes) - an adulterated version of a film or song should not be ascribed to the original artist - but these are practical concerns of a better system than the current one, a system more responsive to both the technology available and the interactivity and personalization demanded by present-day consumers. I'm not arguing that the court's decision was wrong, I'm suggesting that the laws themselves should be rewritten, and, more importantly, re-imagined.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Because He Asked (Simmons and Soccer)

In today's ESPN chat, Sports Guy has this:
Joe (Philly): I loved the world cup, and am thinking about continuing to follow soccer through the English Premier League. How can I pick a team to root for and remain a somewhat-principled sports' fan when I know nothing about England?

Bill Simmons: Intriguing question, I have been wondering the same thing. I was thinking about just picking the team that Michael Davies hates the most, just for comedy's sake, but that's too easy. if anyone wants to make the case for an English premier team for me, email me. I might make the leap. Soccer's growing on me, you don't have to pay attention, it's easy to follow, no sideline reporters, no commercials, no annoying announcers, the crowds are fantastic ... there's a lot to like.
WELL...since I'm in a soccer talking mood anyway, let me give the breakdown.

I'm assuming a few ground rules:

1. The team can't be awful - some chance to win something (if not the league than a chance at Europe or a good cup run) - though the threat of 'the drop' adds something to the bottom of the table battles, if your team is relegated it is simply impossible to really follow them from the states, meaning you have to start over. Which defeats the purpose of, you know, picking a team.

2. The team must play an entertaining style - because dour, defensive, negative, 'park the team bus in front of goal' soccer can be excrutiatingly boring. Which is why the Italian league is the worst league for a neophyte to watch at first - you thought the national team is a bunch of cheating divers, wait til you see the guys just a cut below. They make Bruce Bowen look like a goody-two-shoes.

3. The team cannot be 'the Yankees' - because who roots for the house in blackjack? (And to the guy who kept betting 'don't come' last time I was playing craps in Vegas - screw you, jackass.)

So, with those rules in mind, from top to bottom:

Chelsea - Total Yankee frontrunner pick. Plus, despite having a hugely talented squad, they play as if their coach, Mourinho is auditioning for Serie A. Which he might be, come to think of it. How a team with a midfield of Robben, Essien, Lampard, Maniche and now Michael Ballack can play boring soccer is beyond me. Definite nix.

Manchester United - Full disclosure, this is my team. When I first really got into soccer, they seemed to have the most going on, from a high-pressure, almost frenetic style; to a wildly entertaining Scottish manager (Sir Alex has mellowed, a bit, in recent years, but he still gets all red-faced and splotchy from time to time;) to the personal redemption story of Daivd Beckham post World Cup '98. And there was the little thing of the Treble that first year with sensational comeback wins over Juventus and Bayern Munich in the Champions League and the unfathomably good FA CUP Semi-Final replay vs. Arsenal: Down a man, giving up a penalty near the end of regulation, Schmeichel saves from Bergkamp (who IIRC never took another penalty. Ever...) and Giggs scores that goal, the best I've ever seen...

(Not the best video, better is at the 3:54 mark and onward here.)

But, more objectively, big strike against due to their partnership with the actual Yankees. However, though they are definitely a 'big market' team, they are far from profligate spenders, indeed they have declined a bit in recent years as they have not really replaced Beckham or especially Keane, and the suspicion is that the young players brought up from the youth team aren't quite championship quality. They are still challengers both for the league, and in Europe. Still good to watch as well, with Rooney and Ronaldo (assuming he stays) as well as the short fuses of Alan Smith and Gabriel Heinze. In the end though, for a new fan, picking Man U. is a little too close to being a front runner. Though I came by it honestly and naively, probably not the pick.

Reading, Sheffield United, Watford - Three promoted sides, almost assuredly battling just to survive - very rarely do these kind of teams even endeavor to entertain in their first season. Wigan's performance last year was something of an abberation. However, Reading does have an American, Bobby Convey on their roster, but I think all three squads fail both the first and second test.

Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Charlton Athletic, Portsmouth, West Ham: Zzzzzzz. Some of these teams will finish well, make decent cup runs, threaten European qualification. Some will flirt with relegation and suffer embarassing losses to lower division sides in the cup competitions. None of them will be particularly compelling to watch on a week to week basis. Bolton and Portsmouth have...colorful management which could add an extra bit of spice. West Ham is likely to be the most entertaining of this lot.

Everton, Fulham, Manchester City: Similar to the previous teams, though they might be easier to follow due to American involvement (Tim Howard if he wins the starting GK job at Everton; McBride and Bocanegra at Fulham; Reyna at Man City) Everton and Man City are managed by a fiery (ginger-haired, no less) Scot and a ex-player named "Psycho" respectively. Still not a lot of consistent entertainment, unless Chelsea loan Shawn Wright-Phillips back to Man City, where he was probably worth the price of admission by himself two seasons ago.

Newcastle, Middlesbrough: Probably a step above the last two groups in terms of quality of play and expectations, though Newcastle may struggle to score with Alan Shearer retired and Michael Owen injured for a good portion of the season. If the rumored Oguchi Onyewu deal goes through, Boro will also have U.S. ties. Best analogy would be Cleveland Browns (pre Ravens) fandom - decent teams, rabid supporters in a somewhat provincial environment.

Wigan: Last season's cinderella story - played very nice football for the first half of the season, I'm skeptical as to their ability to sustain, probably not a good pick for a new fan due to the high probability of sucking in a particularly crushing manner.

Which leaves three real candidates:

Arsenal: As a Man U. fan, I have to hate these guys. That said, there is no doubt that they consistently play the best attacking soccer in the league. Henry is an absolute genius in the red shirt, and other World Cup stars such as Spain's Fabregas and Reyes; Sweden's Ljunberg; Holland's Van Persie and the, at times, electric Adebayor of Togo provide plenty of entertainment value. Threat to win the league every year, Champions League runners-up a year ago. Definite 'big market' team, but more the Mets than the Yankees (especially with Chelsea next door) - a fully acceptable choice, if you can handle being called a Gooner (or worse, by me). Also, not too far removed from "boring, boring Arsenal." Just saying.

Liverpool: Steven Gerard, Steven Gerard, Steven Gerard. Saw his best only in flashes in the World Cup, but in the Premier League can completely dominate for weeks on end. And the supporting cast isn't terrible either (Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko, Luis Garcia, Harry Kewell.) Rich history, great set of fans, two always dramatic 'derby' matches with Everton every season. The problem here is the (over)reliance on Gerard - if he's hurt (as he tends to be from time to time) they can be unwatchable. If you can stand rooting for the Cavs, you can go for the 'Pool. Best baseball analogy is Cinicinnati - dominant in the late 70's (and early 80s), not much since.

However, this leads us to rule #4 for Yankee soccer love, which is a strong preference for London-based clubs just so it's easier to, you know, go and actually see your team, which leaves only one winner:

Tottenham Hotspur: If the Dodgers had stayed in Brooklyn, they'd be Spurs. A team that almost always promises more than they deliver, partly because their fans not only want to win, they want to win in style. Through the years, the style has been much more reliable than the results, though they just missed out on the 4th Champions League spot last term. A young, energetic and exciting squad, an attack-minded coach, and that particular fanbase make them the best bet for a combination of results and flair if one is going to not jump on the "Big 3" bandwagon.

CleanFlicks (Or, "How I Learned to Love the Puritanical Censor")

I have great sympathy for the arguments espoused by the Director's Guild of America concerning the 'scrubbing' and reselling of their films:
"Directors put their skill, craft and often years of hard work into the creation of a film," added [DGA President Michael] Apted, whose own repertoire includes the 1999 James Bond adventure The World Is Not Enough and Gorillas in the Mist. "These films carry our name and reflect our reputations. So we have great passion about protecting our work...against unauthorized editing."
As a legal matter, I think the judge probably reached the 'correct' ruling, given extant copywrite law. So in that aspect, I'm not sure I agree with XWL that this decision will, in fact, get overturned (given the Eldred decision, and that the Court certainly hasn't become less friendly to The Mouse and co. since then...)

That said, I do agree with the Immodest Proposer (and Reason's Nick Gillespie) in that this is bad as a policy matter:
As for the case just decided in Denver: I have no problem with gratuitous nudity (is there any other kind in a movie?), foul language, and graphic violence; but I'm squarely on the side of the easily offended CleanFlicks' customers. They are doing precisely what technology is there for: to create the sort of art, music, video, and text that an individual or group of individuals wants to consume.
Just so, especially, given that
[b]y all accounts, the CleanFlicks-type outfits weren't ripping off Hollywood in any way, shape, or form—they were paying full fees for content—and they weren't fooling anyone into thinking their versions were the originals; (emphasis mine)
(Though I'm not willing to fully buy the argument that "they weren't fooling anyone." That proves too much - I'm not fooling anyone with my Hong Kong made bootleg either, but I don't think that's kosher...)

RIA sez:
I'm of the opinion that with Art, you take it or leave it. You don't get to take someone else's vision and remake it into your own image for resale. Or at least shouldn't be able to, without permission.
Well first of all, why not? I'm serious here, Saving Private Ryan without the Normandy Beach scene is not the same movie - in my aesthetic judgment, it is miles worse, and I think most film consumers would agree. Can't we be trusted to make that decision?

Further, this leads to all sorts of imponderables such as when is use of a 'vision' a 'remake' and when is it an 'inspiration?' Also, I think RIA is mistaken, as a legal matter, here:

There are plenty of technologies to help me skip past the parts I find unnecessary.

To which technologies, by the way, the court decision does not apply, as noted in the article, nor do I argue that they should, as used by individual consumers. Nor do I buy the argument that the ruling opens the door, much less sets up a slippery slope, leading to forced commercial-watching or banning of TIVO, etc.

Actually, that is precisely what overly strong copywrite protections threaten with regards to broadcast media - the network 'owns' the content, and it can argue that the commercial breaks are integral to their artistic vision. Who are you to question that? Of course it isn't true, but prove it. Because that's what we want - a court deciding what does and does not belong as part of a performance...

LeMew has more - a taste:
Matt is also right that it's important not to be diverted by distaste for the CleanFlix enterprise. First of all, what the company is doing is not terribly unusual; various forms of content that the mass audience might find objectionable are systematically removed to show movies on broadcast TV and airlines(*), for example, and the former further bowlderizes films to fit time slots and include commercials. Being a snooty civil libertarian aesthete with no kids, I find all of this silly, and in fact I pretty much never watch movies on broadcast TV or airlines, do not think that random bad words or stray nipples on TV present a massive cultural crisis, think that film would probably benefit from more nudity and eroticism (although probably could do with less movies about blowing stuff up) etc. etc. But the puritanism of CleanFlix is also essentially harmless--as opponents of puritan busybodyism often note, nobody's forcing you to watch their products--and of course ex post facto changes are infinitely preferable (for both artists and audiences) to preventing the work from being done in the first place. Instinctive hostility to middlebrow "family values" groups shouldn't compel one to fall into the trap of advocating terrible copyrights laws. It's also worth reiterating that where Congress' copyright powers are concerned, consequentialist analysis is not merely useful but required; the Constitution specifically does not hold that copyrights are a sacrosanct abstract right, but are designed to advance the public interest, which decisions like this manifestly fail to do. (emphasis mine)
FWIW, I think the bolded point goes a long way to answering RIA's 'take it or leave it' viewpoint - and I can see (in a better world, perhaps) where allowing CleanFlix, etc. allows for more content - where this is allowed I can certainly see the arbitrary influence of the MPAA waning, and that's never a bad thing.

No Shame

All class:
Marco Materazzi's agent believes a reunion between the Italy defender and Zinedine Zidane would make a 'nice moment'. . . Claudio Vigorelli, Materazzi's agent, told BBC Radio Five Live: 'At the end of the day it is a thing between Zidane and Materazzi. My personal wish would be that one day they could meet again and maybe make a nice moment.'
Interesting to see what happens if Inter Milan plays a French team in the Champions League this season...

Actual, if belated, class looks something like this, however:
'I reacted badly and I would like to apologise for it,' Zidane told Canal Plus. 'I would like to apologise because a lot of children were watching the match. I do apologise but I don't regret my behaviour because regretting it would mean he was right to say what he said. . .'

'Then he said very harsh words to me and repeated them several times. I left but then I went back towards him and things went very fast. The words he said concerned my mother and sister.

'I heard them once, then twice, and the third time I couldn't control myself. I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions. I would have rather been knocked down than hear that.'

'Afterwards I explained to the referee that I had been provoked, but my behaviour is not forgivable,' Zidane said.
I wasn't quite right when I said I couldn't think of anything similar - the obvious Eric Cantona kung fu incident is remarkably similar in terms of sheer WTF?-ness, though I think there is tiny difference in degree between a league game at Crytsal Palace and the World Cup Final. But that's just me.

In any event, that got me thinking about the certain symmetry involved - Zidane only became the fulcrum of the French national team after Cantona was suspended for 9 months following the above incident. Does the baton now pass to the mercurial Ribery?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Since We're Here

..And today is irrelevant day at WAP(tm), via Jake - go here, if you dare. I cannot warn strongly enough that if one is either easily offended or has a tendency to drink cola/coffee at the keyboard, one should perhaps not...

Otherwise, just do it.

Update: And...commerce

With Apologies Sebby (and yes, an Ultimate opponent went slightly Zidane on me before it was cool to Zidane...), and inspired by 'Pick's suggestion that blogging is really the deaf shouting at the deaf....

How do you sell a duck to a nearly deaf guy?














(try it in a crowded bar/restaraunt sometime - it's almost cartoon-like the way everything stops and silences...)

BookBlogging #12: How Would A Patriot Act?

Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation’s ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation’s ability to determine—through democratic means—how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same. (emphasis added)
- Justice Breyer, concurring in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (.pdf)

Regular readers must know that I'm a huge fan of Glenn Greenwald's work, so naturally I had to peruse his new book rather quickly after it's release. And given the good news of the Hamdan decision, now seems as good a time to post on it as any.

I was not disappointed, "HWAPA" is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the legal issues surrounding various recent stories of the Bush administration's will to power. Greenwald concisely and elegantly demolishes the Yoo/Addington doctrines invoked in support of everything from 'coercive interogation' to the NSA scandal.

Though it has been largely lost in the wake of Greenwald's rise to liberal-blogospheric prominence, he doesn't see the arguments over executive powers as a partisan issue, but rather a matter of fundamental principle. The title, (in addition to the word play at work) is demonstrative - in Greenwald's view, patriotism is almost synomous with a defense of such founding principles as limited, divided government, and individual civil liberties.

In a way, Greenwald's ascension has diminished his authority on the subject - before (understandably) becoming the NetLeft's go to guy on debunking Unitary Executiveisms, he presented very compelling, well-researched positions. And he still does, but he is wholly preaching to the choir: he is an anti-Bush blogger, for better or for worse. The fact that he has repeatedly and consistently presented his case for opposing the present administration is far less important than that he has adopted that position.

And far be it for me to criticise, but his blog covers a much wider swath then simply his areas of expertise. It is always dicey for one to attempt to transpose authority between venues (the best example is Cindy Sheehan, who had moral authority as a simple grieving mother, but far less so as a 'movement leader,') and though I tend to agree with Glenn much more often than not, his broader base serves to reduce his persuasive power to the unconvinced. "You would say that" is a fairly powerful rhetorical dismissal.

Despite these concerns, however, the book is crisply executed. Greenwald's writing is always superbly constructed, and given the greater time for reflection a book allows over a blog has only served to fine tune this quality. It is also concise - a perfect airplane read perhaps, to serve as a primer for one of the more important issues we face.

An Announcement of Sorts

So, now that the World Cup is over, I can return to my normal fare...except, I can't. Not talking about certain things for a month has given me a slight bit of distance and perspective, and I don't feel that I can sanely discuss certain topics with any degree of regularity. Politics for one, because when it comes right down to it, I'm a diletante, and if you are reading this, it's more than likely than you are too. So instead of the blind leading (antagonizing?) the blind, I'll try to keep myself to topics about which I can speak knowledgeably. Nothing. No, that doesn't mean I'm quitting, it just means that like Seinfeld (a show I generally could not stand...) I operate best in zones of irrelevance. So, movies, books, sports, and random observations - yes. Outrage and such? Only when I can no longer contain myself in comment threads.

Monday, July 10, 2006

WC - Last One, Really.

I don't think my previous post really captured the essence of my feelings post L'affaire Zidane. While the 15-year old boy inside of me, taking a break from Double Dragon, agrees in part with those who say there was something sort of . . . totally awesome about it, I've felt Just Not Right since the incident.

Even now, more than 24 hours on, the incomprehensibility of the occurence is jarring in a tritonic, broken-guitar-string, fingernails on blackboards, baby on an airplane kind of way. I've probably absorbed the Big Game cliche a bit too much from American sports movies - so my dismay over the French loss is understandable. However, even had he (and France) lost, the glory was more in the journey - the killer goal vs. Spain, the roulette spin away from Gilberto Silva vs. Brazil. Is that gone now?

I can't adequately put into words the heaviness such a harsh and unromantic conclusion brings to me. Thankfully, others have not been so inhibited, and I urge you to peruse both Alex Hemon and especially Steve Teles:
ll I can say is that, watching this replayed over and over again on television, I felt sick. Part of this was moral revulsion at the foul, which was wholly beyond the pale. But also, something else. I felt a sense of aching sympathy for Zidane. I am sure that at the moment that he drew his head back from Materrazi’s chest, he realized what he had done, not only to his team, but to his own legend. Every beautiful shot on goal, every gorgeous pass, every elegant weaving down the pitch, was suddenly sullied. No one could remember these moments and simply smile, remembering that he had seen one of the greatest men ever to grace the world’s greatest game. Now, every time one thought of Zidane, that horrible, senseless attack would be the first thing that came to mind. Zidane had done to himself what no other man on the pitch could do to him—transform him from hero to villain. I’m sure that, as he walked, deflated down into the locker room, he realized what he had done. He was brought down not by something outside himself, but by a defect of character that lurked within.

Football is, in and of itself, meaningless, a remarkably silly thing for grown men and women to spend so much time occupying themselves with. What transforms it, what makes it something much more, is narrative interwoven with morality. We watch soccer not just for the beauty of the sport, although beauty there certainly is. We also watch it because of the moral drama that is played out among twenty-two men. Today, in Germany and across the world, we saw possibly the saddest such drama that any of us will have the bad fortune to witness. I do not envy Zizou’s effort to find sleep tonight, or in the nights to come.
I had trouble sleeping last night over incident, I can't imagine his struggles.

How does one recover from this? Especially one with no more games to play? When Beckham was disgraced following his kick to the calf of Diego Simeone in '98, he turned his shame and the his country's ire into 2+ seasons of dazzling, artistic, passionate play - he was able to redeem himself so completely that he is the most (or, at worst, 1A) recognizable athlete in the world today.

What happens now to Zidane? Famously shy, is there any way that he does not destroy himself with regrets? Aeschylus would be proud to have written such a tale.

Update: An explanation?:
BBC just had on an Italian lip-reader. Apparently Materazzi told Zidane that he wished “an ugly death for you and your family”. BBC also said that Zidane found out yesterday that his mother is seriously ill.
Vile, if true. (Assuming also that Materazzi knew about his mother - it may have just been a standard 'yo mama' line that had extra poignance under the circumstances. But this is all simply unvarnished speculation...)

Update II: Or maybe...:
After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane “the son of a terrorist whore” before adding “so just f*** off” for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted.
Hrm. See also the end of the article for a timeline of Zizous indiscretions - a choirboy he was not.

Zidane, Italy and the Rest (World Cup Wrap)

First of all, methinks Marco Materazzi doth protest too much:
It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means.
Laying it on a little thick, there, Marco. (See here for his 'greatest hits')

That said, Zidane's red card was obviously warranted, completely shocking and fully absurd, no matter what MM said. Zizou played on Italy for five years, for crissake, one would think he was familiar with what some call 'the dark arts of defending.'

I'm still a bit stunned by the whole thing, of course. I had bought in to the fairytale aspect as much as anyone and this was a cold, hard shot of reality. My sporting idealism trumped by the realpolitik for which the Italians are justly famous. (Not meant as disparagement.) My hope is that Zidane will be better remembered for his play in 1998 and 2000 and vs. Spain and especially Brazil in this tournament, but its tough to say - as far as I can tell, there is simply no precedent in sports for this denoument. The closest I can think of is Raffy Palmeiro slinking off in disgrace during the 2005 baseball season following his steroid suspension. And even that is orders of magnitude away.

As for the game, well played to Italy - they were the better team by a bit in the first half, deserving at least a one goal lead. France's penalty was soft, though others have pointed out that between Malouda's two tumbles in the box, he probably deserved to be awarded one spot-kick, so it balanced out. In the second half and extra time, Italy inexplicably returned to dour form, and though they defended with aplomb (Cannavaro and Zambrotta being typically excellent. Speaking of Cannavaro...good work again, FIFA. Is there anything they can't screw up?) the attacking gusto which characterized much of their play was gone.

And I still hate him for his dive vs. Australia, but Fabio Grosso deserves some recogniztion for exceptional clutchness. He didn't even come into the team until Zaccardo was banished for scoring in his own net vs. the US, and since that time, he and Zambrotta have bombed forward like Roberto Carlos and Cafu when they where simply footballers, rather than advertising billboards. Drawing a game winning penalty? check. Scoring a fantastic winner to break the hosts' hearts? check. World Cup winning penlaty? You betcha. Well done, sir.

Final thoughts on the cup? I think the play on the field was not always indicated on the scoreboard. Though few goals were scored, I think that has more to do with poor finishing than overly negative play - only Ukraine - Switzerland and Ukraine - Tunisia really come to mind as poor games (Well, England - Paraguay and England - Ecuador as well, I suppose...) Of the teams that made the knockout phase, there were only 3 or 4 strikers who really had notable cups - Klose and Podolski for Ze Germans, Torres for Spain (Sir Alex, if we have to sell Ronaldo, can we please, please acquire him?) and perhaps Henry. Indeed, some of the more impressive strikers did not make it out of group play: Adebayor and Kader from Togo; Drogba from Cote d'Ivoire; Chun Soo Lee from Korea; Prso of Croatia.

Obviously, too many cards and too much diving, which I think are related. For the American announcers, let's put it this way, during the final there was a crying baby in the bar. And she was both more pleasant on the ears and provided greater insight into the game than did LemonCello Balboa. She sold it well...

As for a positive, it was nice to see aggressive coaching rewarded and timidity punished - England and Brazil, too cowardly to change up a failing system? See ya. Germany and Italy, no longer dour and defensive, finish 1st and 3rd.

And now, back to my life...Update: Or not quite yet...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bookblogging #11: Crashing the Gate

We return from our regularly scheduled World Cup Blogging to pop off for a bit about a few of the books that we've finished in pursuit of 50 in 52. Today, Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitasis Zuniga's "Crashing the Gate".

I had avoided the book for the same reasons I don't visit DailyKos often - I was worried about polemics, high noise-to-signal ratios and the 'preaching to the choir' effect. However, since it came as part of a package with Greenwald's book, I figured what the hell?

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from the introduction, (which seems almost as a catechism of anti-GOP opinion, required of a liberal author before he or she can continue), the work is largerly sober and cooly analytical. Indeed, while obviously disapproving of many of the specific tactics used by the Right, Kos and Armstrong are openly admiring of the infrastructure which allows the tactics to succeed - yes the Swiftboaters were vile and scurrilous, but the manner in which the message was transferred from politicos to bloggers to the media to voters was a thing to behold. The Dems have no such message machine, and in this context, the complaints about the 'Mighty Wurlitzer' or the 'Republican Noise Machine' ring hollow and taste a bit of sour grapes.

By comparison, the authors are openly derisive of many elements of the Democratic electoral 'machine'. From the perverse reward system for Democratic pollsters and consultants (an odd area of agreement between Kos and Joe Klein, though I'd imagine that Kos would say that Klein correctly identifies the symptom while misdiagnosing the disease) to the perverse actions of 'single-issue groups' to the subtitution of 'psychic' income for actual lucre as compensation for the frontline footsoldiers of the liberal movement.

This last point in particular is well made. For all the kvetching done by many progressives about the 'Wingnut Wellfare' which ensures monetary comfort for those such as the Cornerites, this concern is misplaced. Kos and Armstrong argue, quite compellingly, for a more professional approach - not forcing someone to choose between paying student loans or working for 'the cause.' It is probably no mistake that the well-compensated tend to be well-motivated.

All told, a compellingly argued take on the process of politics, from the left side of the aisle.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Since it's that time of the tourney (and FIFA's is pretty good as well, aside from the inclusion of both Totti and Toni and the omission of Torres, Miguel, and perhaps Essien or Appiah. Good spot to name Ze Roberto as the pick of the ultimately disappointing Brazillians.)

Here's mine, going with the en vogue 4-5-1:

GK: Buffon. Splendid, all tourney. No real question. Lehman and Ricardo runners up.

LB: Phillip Lahm - From the first game, Germany's best player. Somewhat quieter in the semi, but he and Zambrotta largely cancelled each other out. (Runner up J.P. Sorin)

CB: Fabio Cannavaro, Rafael Marquez. Cannavaro has been transcendant, and will command a huge fee if Juventus is forced to sell him if they are relegated in the match-fixing scandal. Marquez was solid in defense, good on the ball, and very dangerous when moving into a more advanced position. (Backups: Rio Ferdinand, Lilian Thuram.)

RB: Close one here, but Gianlucca Zambrotta is my pick. Energetic, and skillful. For me, he was the best player on the field in the Australia game and hasn't really looked back. Went a long way to muting Lahm in the semi. Close second is Portugal's Miguel.

LM: Cristiano Ronaldo: Yes he's a diver, but was there a more terrifying player with the ball at his feet all tourney? Plus, was anyone cooler from the penalty spot? (Runner up: Joe Cole)

DM: Gattuso. Dead f'ing hard. I tend to like guys who are willing to both dish it out, and take it, and Reno is one. I hope this is a non-denial denial sort of thing.

CM: Zidane. Duh. Just, duh. #2 is Riquelme, the closest thing out there. (Midfield runners up: Hargreaves, Viera, either Essien or Appiah.)

RM: Maxi Rodriguez. Even aside from the goal of the tourney to beat Mexico, driving, physical, menacing force for the Argentines throughout. (Backup: Ribbery)

CF: Miroslav Klose. The model of the modern centerforward. Strong, fast, good in the air, good at holding the ball, good vision and passing, predatory finishing. Not a great tournament for centerforward play all around, but Torres and Henry were the pick of the rest.

PS: I agree with Al, the announcers, Balboa aside haven't been that bad. Tommy Smyth was even bordering on acceptable. And this is spot on:
Back to the Americans: I will not defend O'Brien's partner Marcelo Balboa, except tonsorially. He's a classic example of what Howard Cosell called the "jockocracy"—hired because he played the sport and can (occasionally) form complete sentences. Unless he wears his shin guards while calling the game, his experience as a player is worthless. John Harkes, though, has stood out. The former U.S. National Team stalwart has a discerning eye for the players, knows where they ply their club trade, and has been properly aggrieved at the relentless diving and thuggery on display. Harkes and JP Dellacamera, a veteran of ESPN soccercasts who knows the game and doesn't feel the need to talk for the sake of talking, probably should have been the lead team. The network's studio work has also been surprisingly strong. Eric Wynalda, who's never been afraid to voice strong opinions, is staging a breakout performance. If only there was somewhere for him to break to, post-Germany.
It would be nice if international soccer was to become more accesible to the American fan. Fox Sports World Soccer Channel is still something of a backwater, lacking in any consistent analysis aside from the excellent Bobby McMahon and the amusing Fox Football Friday. Maybe someday we'll see the equivalent of NFL primetime with a fun studio host and a suitably English/Scottish analyst. A guy can dream right?

Belated QF, FS Thoughts

Sorry for the absence. Not dead, or sick, or anything just, tired. I need a vacation from my vacation. Anyway, in no particular order.

1. Zinedine Zidane. What more can be said? Though he wasn't nearly as good against Portugal as he was against Spain or especially Brazil, the word used to describe his performances that I like best is 'magesterial'. He seems to be presiding over these games, rather than simply playing in them. My favorite things about him are the subtle ones. During the final watch him when he receives a pass - he almost never, ever comes to a complete stop. There is always a small, almost imperceptible change in foot positioning or the direction the ball is rolling, but that small change creates passing angles and dribbling lanes not available to the more literal player.

2. The Italians. Good on them, I suppose. I still hate them and their floppy haired, diving, prima donna BS. That said, it's hard to say that they haven't been the better team in every one of their knockout games. Despite the egregious dive, they probably shaded the Aussies (and Materazzi's red card was ludicrous anyway). Even though 3-0 was a ridiculous scoreline given the long periods of Ukranian (WEAK!) dominance in the second half, hard to say the win was undeserved. And, having watched the game for a third time, despite the bias encouraged by the crowd noise, they slightly outplayed the Germans. This squad manages to encapsulate what is both maddening and magical about Italian soccer: corruption and theatricality balanced against unflappably elegant defending and skillful, economical bursts of attacking verve.

3. Ze Germans. Far exceeded expectations. For me, Klose was one of the revelations of the tournament - he was one of my least favorite players of the 2002 WC (the classic teutonic 'head-in-goals vs. crappy teams' strike), but his total game has been elevated several levels. His set up play for Podolski's second goal vs. Sweden was awesome. And on a team wide level, the Germans played like the English think they should - power, pace and passion. If Beckham, Gerard and Lampard did as much running as Frings, Kehl and Schneider, England would probably have beaten Portugal. Just saying.

4. Portugal. Screw the lot of you. Except you Cristiano. Old Trafford surely welcomes you back. Right? Please?

5. The Announcers. JP Dellacamera and John Harkes have actually done pretty well - Dellacamera is experienced at doing soccer, and has a much better voice than does "Baseball" Dave O'Brien (who can't help himself from throwing the Uecker into some of the latin sounding names FABio CannaVARo. I look up at the TV and expect to see El CaBALlo rounding third after parking one...) Harkes has been concise and, when needed, opinionated. Contrast that to LemonCello:
Balboa is unbelieveable. He'll criticize someone for diving and, in the next breath, complement someone the same conduct as a "smart play." Next time, they should give [me] a six pack and let [me] start rambling. It would undoubtedly be more coherent.
Must. Learn. Better. Spanish. by 2010.

6. England. Typical of course. What is it about the English that produces players with the bizarre combination of world class talent and absolutely psychotic temperment, be it Gazza, Beckham or young Roonaldo? (And for a further query, why do the two seem inversely related within those players? As Becks has matured, his game has suffered. From 1998 - 2000 when he was still in "F You" mode he was the best midfielder in the world. Then he became captain and all responsible, and he became the soccer equivalent of Steve Kerr, a 3 point set piece specialist and not much more...) That said, I have some sympathy for Rooney, as two Portuguese wankers defenders (including the immensely provacative Carvalho, tough break for a nice kid that you gave away the penalty vs. France) had been continuously fouling him for about 4 seconds prior to the 'incident'. England may have stumbled on their best lineup going forward, almost by accident when Beckham was injured. The back four of Cole, Terry, Ferdinand (fantastic all tourney) and Neville looked very solid at all times, and a midfield of Joe Cole, Gerrard, Hargreaves (2nd best individual performance of the tourney was his vs. Portugal) and Aaron Lennon, with Crouch up front and Rooney given a free, Henry-like role.

7. As for the final, which Italy shows up? My money is on a reversion to dour, cynical form. Zidane will be kicked mercilessly. However, Thuram and Gallas will crush Toni and Totti like worms, and France will have too much of the game, and win 1-0 on a Viera goal, perhaps 2-0 with a late Henry breakaway.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

TIVO Bubble Unpopped

So, was able to see, ostensibly live:
  1. The Nutcracker Suite by Wayne Rooney
  2. Zinedine Zidane partying like it was 1998
  3. More jammy BS from the aptly named Italian left-back. Grosso indeed. If Portugal wins tommorow, I'm rooting for lightning, or perhaps a plague of frogs, for the final.
More tommorow when I'm feeling slightly more human.