17 June 12
We just returned from The Graduate, the biggest sports bar in Davis, where we were watching the final matches in Group B of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament. The teams playing were Germany versus Denmark and Portugal versus the Netherlands, and the two matches were going on simultaneously. The two games in the final round of each of the groups takes place at the same time so as to avoid having the results from one match bias the play of the last match, and the concurrency makes for lots of drama. Going into play today any of the four teams could advance, though the scenarios for certain combinations were complicated.
All this makes for an interesting media experience, with half of the many screens in the Grad tuned to one match, half to the other match, and trying to pay attention to what is happening in both matches at once. I don’t think I have ever tried watch two sporting events like that before. I am pulling for Germany and Denmark to go through. But that means that who I root for at any given moment depends upon the scores in both matches. Let’s see — Netherlands are up 1-0….that means that if scores stay the same in the end Germany and Denmark go through, but we don’t want Netherlands to score 2 goals, because they would then go through, but now that Portugal has tied it up, we want Netherlands to score again…and wait, now that Portugal has taken the lead, if Denmark by some chance scores a goal, Germany would be going out…
In the end Portugal and Germany both finished strongly and won their respective matches 2-1 apiece. Portugal will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, and Germany will play Greece. It’s a good atmosphere at the Grad to watch these big footie matches, with quite an international crowd always showing up.
17 July 11
Not having a TV, we always roam the town looking for venues to watch major sporting events. This afternoon we ended up at International House Davis to watch the Women’s World Cup final; they had advertised in the newspaper a couple days ago that they would be hosting viewing the event. They clearly are not as practiced in showing sporting events as the sports bar down the road, and Comcast was flaking out on them today, so they resorted to showing the ESPN3 internet feed. This was hardly high-def, and had the annoying habit of several times freezing at critical junctures, including the winning penalty kick! But the video feed sufficed.
We went to see the match without a strong rooting interest, mostly hoping just to see a good game. It didn’t take me long to figure out I was pulling for Japan; after the barrage of shots they weathered during the first few minutes it was clear they would be playing the role of the underdog. The game turned out to be as exciting a soccer match as I’ve ever seen. For the underdogs to equalize once, then twice, and finally win on PKs is great drama. I left very happy for Japan. Both teams are good, good teams and played their hearts out. What more does one wish to see in sport?
14 April 11
A Tree Falls In Portland
The soccer team the Portland Timbers just won their very first game at home since the team started playing in the US top division Major League Soccer earlier this spring, beating the Chicago Fire this evening 4-2. Congratulations to the team and their fans.
Their fans. I learned about the home opener from this piece today on the soccer blog The Run of Play, the piece being about constructing a local urban identity through the global sport of soccer. From what I can tell the Timbers’ fans have already become one of the most animated of fanbases in all of MLS. It’s exciting to see this happening in US soccer.
27 August 10
Settling Into Fall Footie
The answer to what am I going to do after the World Cup has been taking shape. So far the only soccer I’ve been catching on TV has been when we go to our favorite taqueria for Saturday lunch when more often than not they are showing a random footie match on their bigscreen. But following the BBC live text reports does in a pinch (it’s how we follow the Tour de France), giving us a new Saturday morning activity where I read these out to Pica over breakfast. And there’s always watching the goal highlights on YouTube. I am following Tottenham Hotspur in earnest now, finding myself surprisingly thrilled by their victory at home on Wednesday to make it into this year’s Champions League competition. Following the Champions League should be fun — it’s anybody’s guess who will win it, unlike the various national leagues.
La Liga gets started tomorrow — expect even more entertainment.
15 July 10
I listened to my first baseball game following the World Cup, the Giants beating the New York Mets 2-0, Tim Lincecum throwing a complete game shutout. I’m not quite ready to give up soccer for another four years, and for now continue to pay attention to the sport. So far this means a) finishing Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett’s latest novel about the wizards at Unseen University being coerced into fielding a football team against the town folk of Ankh-Morpork, the ending of which bearing more than a slight resemblance to the Spain-Netherlands final b) reading Jonathan Wilson’s recent treatise Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics c) learning that Billy Beane, the much-heralded general manager for the baseball team the Oakland Athletics, has in recent years become a soccer fanatic; indeed some suspect he’s gotten bored with baseball and only cares about soccer these days d) wondering if Billy Beane’s favorite English Premier League team, Tottenham Hotspur, would be a good one for me to follow and maybe adopt (it would not do to become a fan of any of the EPL “Big Four” — that’s like defaulting to being a Yankees fan) But chances for me to watch soccer without broadband or any sort of cable TV are few and far between, so maybe I stick to baseball on the radio…
11 July 10
Ganaste, ganó, ganamos, ganasteis, ganaron.
(I’m still in shock but we are back from Oregon where we saw
Rana Rachel and Dan get married in the most gorgeous spot, had a lovely Thai lunch with Dale prior to a focused expedition to Powells, met the Knitting Rabbi as Numenius mentioned, and watched two football matches. One of which was very, very key. It involved my wearing a red shirt and I’m afraid I made a bit of a spectacle of myself in a bar at the Portland airport, but I may well get over it.)
29 June 10
And Then There Were Eight
We get a bit of a breather until the next World Cup matches; the quarterfinals don’t begin until Friday. I’m not quite sure how I will deal without this diet of twice or thrice-daily footie matches. In the quarterfinals I am rooting for Netherlands over Brazil, Germany over Argentina, Spain over Paraguay, and am indifferent in Ghana vs. Uruguay (it will be neat seeing either team in the semis). I’m afraid attending to what is happening in baseball is quite difficult now. The two sports are just on completely different elemental planes of action, especially when you compare the intensity of the World Cup to the middle of a baseball season.
17 June 10
One Week Behind The Jabulani
We’re deep in the trenches of following the World Cup, and will be in that mode for the next three weeks. Mexico’s win today 2-0 over France has brought the most satisfaction of any match to date; with 44 matches remaining in the tournament more delights and disappointments are surely to come. Not having a television I am quite happy that ESPN Radio has stepped up to broadcasting all the matches on radio. The flip side of this intense focus on the sport one month out of every four years is I don’t really have much access to following top-flight soccer the other forty-seven months. It’s a tad of a predicament.
10 June 10
Well, it all starts tomorrow. I can’t decide whether to come in to work early (7 am here) and listen to the opening match, South Africa-Mexico, on the radio in Spanish, or go in to House of Prague for an egg breakfast, or go to International House for coffee and donuts. Which match where? Ooof.
As Steven Rubio says, ESPN has gone all out to televise the World Cup this year. And it may be worth watching some of it instead of sticking with my usual favorite, Univisión. I will be paying attention to several blogs including Steven’s and Not A Safari. And somewhere in this murk I’m going to be traveling to Pennsylvania for a week — for a calligraphy workshop. I may have to participate in some furtive football fanishness. Watch this space.
The first World Cup I remember much of is 1970. The anticipation, the cheers, the rib-splitting tension in those smoky rooms just north of Madrid then, sucked into the over-urbanized sprawl heading for default now. Pelé. I remember Pelé, what a phenomenon, he was pure flowing magic on the field, we watched in black and white but it seemed like color, gold even, he had a sort of holy aura: the football was so beautiful. It was a fantastic World Cup and it hooked me forever.
I’d love to see South Africa do well, they are so excited to be hosting and throwing a damn good party already. I will be very torn between England and the US but hope the US does well this time. I will enjoy watching Brazil and will hope, as always, that Argentina gets thrashed. I have a huge soft spot for any underdog and hope to see an unlikely winner here and there. But my heart, as always, belongs to Spain, to La Roja, and is in my mouth as they make their final preparations for the tournament. Maybe this year… Quizás. Vamos, muchachines, que ya es hora.
ETA: See also the excellent Zonal Marking.