Don't Be Ruud; or, Heads Up!
Far be it from me, an ignorant American, to preach about the Beautiful Game...but I'm an American, so preach I shall:
- You will find no bigger booster of JP DellaCammara than me (he was the announcer for the late, lamented Pittsburgh Spirit MISL team), but I for one didn't think the referee lost control of the Holland-Portugal match. The PLAYERS lost control. You have a ref handing out yellows and reds like crazy, and other than the craven yet savvy dive by Figo, most of them seemed justified. The ref had sent off 2 players and practically dealt a full table of Yellow Card Hold'Em, yet they kept on pushing it. What the hell was Deco thinking, picking the ball up and walking away with it? At the time I felt Figo deserved a straight red for his head-butt, but maybe that's a bit strong. A pathetic display by both teams, and Portugal now has 2 important players sitting out and half the team in danger of missing the semis if they get past England.
- I'm quite looking forward to someone explaining to me why Ruud van Nistelrooy wasn't in that game. Was he hurt? Does Van Basten have a thing against him? Regardless of whatever faults he may have, Ruud is so clinical a finisher he should take to the pitch in a white lab coat with a stethoscope draped over his shoulders. Kuit never looked especially threatening, other than that one late turn that Ricardo parried. I still can't believe Ruud never debuuted.
- Where does Van Basten get those short-sleeved, tight-fitting, button-down shirts? 500,000 pushups from now, I'll need to know.
- Football is played on a field the size of Vatican City. Hockey is played on what amounts to a glassed-in racquetball court. Can someone explain why hockey is able to shoehorn FOUR officials onto the ice yet soccer makes do with one referee and two linesman who stand along the sidelines? It is an absolute truth, like gravity and evolution, that the officiating in soccer is horrible. Horrible. So, why not have two refs on the pitch (one in front of the action, one trailing), linesman along the touch lines to decide corner and free kicks, and linesman on each side to call offsides? That's eight officials, about the same the NFL uses for every game. Throw in instant replay for goals and maybe you wouldn't see major European and South American cities being burned to the ground every 4 years in post-match rioting. Or, at least they'd be burned to the ground for good reason, not because some ref from Cyprus missed an obvious offisdes.
- David Beckham is perhaps the most famous footballer in the world. Perhaps the most famous person in the world. He's half of perhaps the most glamorous couple in the world (Brad and Angelina have spent too much time in Namibia to qualify). And yet the moment that will perhaps cement him as an actual sports hero, as opposed to just being a media-boosted celebrity athlete, came when he barfed all over his cleats after he scored on one of his textbook free kicks. Good looking guy. Good looking wife. Nice career. Nice goals. The fact that he puked on the grass, then sucked it up and played another 20 minutes...my hat is off to the man.
- After Beckham scored they showed Victoria jumping up and down in celebration. I think you could calculate pi to 694,000 places just by staring at her breasts. And I thought it was absolutely charming that little Brooklyn was holding a balloon and eating ice cream on a stick. Just like a human child.
- Former England striker Gary Lineker once said this: "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win". Could England be playing the German role in this World Cup? They've been pretty bloody awful, but they keep winning. I know they can't play against Portugal the same way and expect to win...or can they? Will that game be the one Lampard actually puts a ball on net? Will the semis be the one where Gerrard blasts one of his 35-yard screamers? Will the final be the one where Peter Crouch fouls one off his noggin and ends up knighted and the Viceroy of the British Virgin Islands? It's a strange enough world.
I watched the latest game at the bar where I play volleyball. The cabana was hosting a party so I went into the bar proper. Inside a few people were having lunch--sitting at the bar was no one except two young women. The first had black hair pooling around creamy white shoulders exposed by the spaghetti straps of her emerald-green top. The other had thick, curly blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, a canary-yellow halter top and a denim miniskirt that Victoria Beckham would say was a bit too revealing. I take a seat at the bar, order a Yuengling, and try to concentrate on the game and not them.
And then the blonde asks the barkeep/proprietor, "Can you turn up the sound on the World Cup game?" It's true--pretty girls respond to guys who ignore them. I know this is a fundamental fact of life, but damned biology gets in the way sometimes.
He put it on the big screen in the back, giving me an excuse to turn around and watch them and the game at the same time. And we chatted pleasantly about the England game and how the US team tanked and other football-releated topics. Maybe soccer will never take over America the way it has the rest of the world, but let no one doubt that Americans aren't interested in the World Cup. We like spectacle. We like things that are Big. If two luscious 22-year-old hotties can hold up their end of a converstaion about the quality of officiating in soccer, the game is doing well enough over here.
Probably be watching the games there tomorrow, too. To earn beer money I played 3 heads-up SNGs this morning--and won all three. Thanks in part to my savvy gamesmanship, in part to my feral aggressiveness, and in part to my blinkered overestimation of my game. Actually, I controlled all three games from soup to nuts. I took the initiative. I seized the initiative, I bought the initiative dinner before taking it to a show, and then I met the initiative's parents before we went away for a weekend to Niagra Falls. I played well. Aside from two tough beats I was the puppetmaster and my foes moved only when I fiddled with their strings. Felt good, my confidence was a bit shaken after yesterday. As you can see, it's back now. Thanks to my results and, possibly, from the 4 beers I had this afternoon. Possibly.