Monday, June 14, 2010

Some World Cup Notes and Ramblings

some things to say: Italy; the US and England's keepers; Lame-o American jocks, nonfans, and press; the ugly stuff; & vuvuzelas

disappointed in the Italy result, however the international press has been pretty skeptical of them in the runup to 2010 . . .

the more i think about (and rewatch) the US-England game the prouder i am . . . i think we did superbly . . .

the Tim Howard Man of the Match award was exactly, EXACTLY, right, and i thought there were plenty of other superb performances . . . notably Gerrard, Terry, Dempsey and Donovan . . . but Howard could not be faulted on the goal at all, and made some saves that are much more difficult than he made them look . . . turning away a dozen shots from a team of world class shooters is BIG . . .

i also think the defense did a better job than i gave them credit for during the game, although i still think we spent too much time confused . . . the scary part of that is that England is not Mr. Creative on the front end, and should we get out of group we have potential to see some fearsomely creative groups . . . perhaps Germany to begin with . . . we need to solve the gap-leaving tendencies we have . . . fast

okay, so i have been there, i know this scenario and i know what happened to Robert Green in goal . . . and i'll explain . . . BUT i want to brag a little about having said, one minute before Dempsey's goal, that Green was looking scary and we should take advantage . . . that's because he seemed distracted, and just a foot out of placement most of the time . . . and, imho, that's what cost him . . . and to start with i both a) feel for him knowing he's taking a beating far worse than he deserves, but b) despite my coming to bat for him in a second, it still was a routine save for a world class keeper . . . all right, here's the technical errors he made -- a) he was a bit lazy, one half-step to his right and he would have been behind the ball (he said this himself sorta, he phrased it a bit different, but the result was the same -- on that shot he had time to get where his body would have blocked the muff); b) that distraction thing -- he was feeling pressured in the minutes leading up to the goal, and i had seen him doing poor things, like, ta-da, not getting behind the ball, making decisions before the play played out, and thus being out of place or playing the ball out to a non-choice setup; c) he was looking up when the ball hit his hands, looking for the playout to come, and so was unprepared for what the ball was doing (more on that in a minute re: Dempsey); and finally, d) something i haven't heard said, but in my mind was probably the most egregious technical error -- he came off his feet, went to his knees, and when the ball got away he had no spring nor body length to recover (which led to the part that looks the worst on camera, him scrambling to reach what looked like a catchable ball) . . . as i said i feel for him, but it was routine, IF you do the technical things right, and virtually all of his technique was poor in the moment . . . and to top it off, it was a dangerous ball (see Dempsey below) . . . for England, it actually was a good thing i think . . . it was so embarrassing that it woke him up and he was every bit world class after that . . . had it been stopped, or had it been a superb goal he had no chance at, i think he might have maintained his complacency, and something like that last Altidore attempt he got a hand on might have won it for the colonists . . .

which brings me to Dempsey's shot . . . i m tired of reading that it was weak, soft, or easy, and that it bounced twice . . . all of it sounding like he tossed a beach ball . . . that's part of the press, UK and US, trying to play up how bad a gaffe it was (it especially makes the non-knowledgeable Yanks looks like they know something! . . . dilettantes), and to downplay that the US even took a shot . . . when the shot happened i thought it was a fine shot, and now that i've seen mutiple replays and especially the parallel low-angle versions, i see that it's what i first thought . . . yes, a) it was not an unreachable screamer, and b) it was still a routine stop for a keeper of Green's caliber, BUT it didn't bounce so much as skip twice, it was well shot from well outside the box, and it not only had some steam on it, but was cycloning too . . . which is the other reason i alluded to above that it was mishandled -- it was a difficult ball, not just one you put your hand in front of and it stops . . . i have played those kind of balls many times, and they do just what that one did, it skips off of, spins around, your hand and it's still moving . . . it hit his hand solid, and yet still had enough oomph to get past him, out of reach and into goal -- it didn't dribble in like molasses . . . and it was likewise that spin-off that created the difficulty for him once he felt it go off his hand, and thus he turned and was unable to get a quick bead on it to know how to react . . .

okay no more excuses, i just wanted to give credit to both sides for something not quite as miserable as it was made out to be . . .

now Slovenia . . . this one is a must-win game, if for no other reason than England is smarting and they're going to take it out on Algeria . . .

the US national press was beyond lame in their post-game assessments . . . both CBS and CNN made huge errors -- getting the wrong name in one case, having a guy playing for the wrong team in the other . . . and both were the lamest reports of a truly bland response, clearly either had a soccer mom writing from her living room, or some lame college grad who partied too hard the night before . . .

i know some people haven't awakened to the fact that soccer in the US has come of age (i'm talking to you Dan!), and that most of why it still seems primitive comes from sportswriters who grew up with the big three and can't get past their own prejudices . . . if you don't know the game, and this is an intellectual game that requires KNOWING it in order to sound even remotely wise (that's the great difficulty about writing on soccer, you have to have an understanding of the game, because it's about the relationships of players on the field, in an ever-changing amoeba, not players lined up, fixed plays, repetitive moves, timeouts, infinite subs, coach's decisions, but a living evolving being of its own -- i've always loved the game as much for the fact that it's a players' game, not a coach's game, you teach what you can teach and you turn the guys loose . . . with football, baseball, basketball can be easy for a writer to fill a page of newsprint, all you have to do is focus on numbers, and voila 'instant knowledge' -- that's a job i held for a decade-plus too, so i know . . . this is also why lame American jock-types are so laughable when they complain about soccer scores, it means to me that they really don't even know the strategy, nuance and depth of much simpler baseball, football and basketball either because they're relying on numbers, that's the limit of their knowledge, a little math) [don't get me started on rules, the folks who know the least about any game are invariably the ones screaming at the ref -- they know nothing else, but by golly they know the rules -- i love folks screaming about either a) offsides being totally mystifying (sheesh, read the book, it's a simple rule -- it's the calling of it that's difficult because the ref has to be focused on two things at once, not because the rules is written in hieroglyphics) , or b) never ever thinking an offsides call is right -- enough of lame-o American broadcasters doing the pedantry every call -- screw that, just show the replay and let those who don't get it revel in their ignorance, while the rest of us don't have to feel like we live someplace so childish that the broadcasters, rarely with any knowledge themselves, talk down to us] . . . anyway, all that to say that i'm embarrassed that in the 21st century we don't have better home coverage in a sport that we are now clearly competitive at on an international level (without inventing the sport ourselves and laying claim to a world title for something no one else plays . . . . ahem . . .)

The Dark Side of the Cup: Slovenia v Algeria wins two big prizes for the tournament so far -- Most Vicious/Ugly Game, and the Tony for Most Theatrical . . . boo hiss . . . and peeved that they're both in our group . . . runners-up team, both categories (although i haven't seen the game yet, but the press has been harsh) Paraguay

and finally, much debate over vuvuzelas . . . my inclination is to say that in an ideal world there is no banning of anything, especially things that make people happy . . . and i love the idea of it anyway . . . BUT in my ideal world, people would have a little more sense . . . like blow the things after a goal, but realize that the incessant blaring probably is ruining the moment for a lot of people who came to watch the game, not toot on a horn . . . how, in fact, do people blowing those things all the time even see, much less enjoy the game . . . much as i would have liked to be at the games, i can say that i'm happier i'm not because of the horns . . . i can watch the game in excruciating detail and turn the sound off . . . which seems to me where the South African Federation AND FIFA would have felt the pinch . . . if the world is turning off the sound on their tubes, then no one is hearing the 'expert' analysis, and more importnatly, and sad in its own way, no one is hearing the commercials . . . all those millions of dollars of advertising wasted . . . hahahahahahahahahaha


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