Monday, July 17, 2006

A few belated and (perhaps not) final World Cup thoughts

Sal, are you still reading? I have at last learned to appreciate not only the fine art of defense, but Italian footballing in general. Not that I was happy with their defeat of my late and hastily-adopted Les Bleus, of course, and let me be clear: I will always love the attacking style best, and I will never approve of the "score one goal, clamp down for the rest of the game" approach. And one reason I enjoyed watching the Italians play this year was because they did show us something besides the old catenaccio. Still, I'm impressed enough that I'm planning to watch some Serie A this year.

Kudos to Oregon Sports Authority for the massive finals party in the square last Sunday, which drew approximately 8,000. Although it was about 150 degrees and Derek's sunburn just stopped peeling the other day, what a fun way to experience a little bit of what fans got in Germany, throughout Europe, and in much of the rest of the world. It's good to live in Soccer City USA. And it salved the pain of France's loss a little bit when the carloads of happy Italians starting driving round my neighborhood waving flags, honking their horns, and shouting "I-TAL-IA!" out their windows.

Germany put on a fantastic Cup and I'm sorry I wasn't there. I am pleased that the tournament and the performance of the German team (about which I was able to feel much more generous, once they were safely out of the finals!) has led to resurgence of German pride. Over and over again, I've heard talk about how the Germans felt they could display their flag again without shame for the first time since WWII.

Worst thing about the Cup for me? "All Italians/Mexicans/Argentinians/pick your darker-complexioned person of choice here" (funny, it was never, say, England, although I saw dubious moves from plenty of northern European players as well) "are cheaters/divers/etc." In a place as untrammeled as the Net, it becomes very difficult to talk about the propensity of several players on any particular national team to, say, flop around on the pitch a bit too much without seeming to open the door to troglodytic types who are just waiting to glom on in hysterical agreement: "Yeah! All Mexicans are cheaters! And they take our jobs! Build a wall! Nyah!" Lovely. Restores your faith in humanity, it does. On the other hand, I saw some encouraging efforts on the part of several World Cup bloggers to encourage good sportsmanship, imploring fans to extend congratulations to teams that defeated them rather than adopting the tactics of the lowest common denominator.

Finally, Zizou and Materazzi, talked to death already, but here goes: first, I am utterly unconvinced that Zizou has not heard and dished out similar insults throughout his career. As I predicted, the remark had nothing to do with racism (or terrorism, for heaven's sake--"If you support Italy the terrorists will have won!"), which many seemed to secretly hope, as it might have made the whole incident a nice tidy black-and-white (no pun intended) issue with a clear right and wrong. In the days that followed, both of them began to sound rather shamefaced at having lost their respective heads yet in need of continuing to portray the insult as wretched beyond the telling (Zizou) or meant in most respectful terms, ultimately, as these things go (Materazzi). In the end, I can only say that it's a good thing Zizou has never played in front of the Timbers Army or he might have sent a rocket launcher into the stands.

Those of you who believe Rooney and Zizou should be pardoned (and please remember, both players I like a great deal) because Cristiano Ronaldo (whom I dislike) or Materazzi made them do it, I ask you: did your mother, or any other adult, ever buy that excuse when you were a kid? I didn't think so. I imagine if we expect eight-year-olds to be responsible for their own actions to a certain extent we can require the same of multimillionaires. As far as I'm concerned, keeping your cool on the pitch is a skill as crucial as dribbling, shooting, and defending. Ultimately I find personal attacks both childish and distasteful, whether it's coming from the opposing side or my fellow supporters. There are other ways to unsettle your opponents. But it happens, and as long as I'm not allowed to headbutt the girl on her cellphone in an SUV who nearly ran me down in a heavily pedestrian area in which I had the right-of-way last week , I think these players can stand to grow a thicker skin.

Onwards to South Africa 2010! We plan to be at the party next time, rather than simply watching it from afar.


Zach Dundas said...

Nice work on the summation, and on coverage throughout. Are you guys having as much trouble detoxing/disengaging as I am? I grandly announced that XIDevils would be on hiatus through the end of the month, yet I've managed to post a couple of times. Worse than heroin!

Derek said...

After last Sunday's final I was ready for a break. All those early mornings, blah blah blah, had taken a tiny toll on me bones. But that literally lasted a day. Then I started craving my steady diet of two live games a day, etc.

I miss it. There's no way in hades that I could've sustained that schedule any longer, but I loved it. Books and films (a big part of my life, though they were virtually non-existent for the entire month of the Cup) have once again found their way into my schedule and there is once again a balance. But I frequently find myself putting a book down and daydreaming about football.

Lynda and I ended up subscribing to GOL TV (they show La Liga games and Barcelona in particular) last week, so it's been fun catching a few South American matches to ease off of the Cup.

So much for the detoxing.

Lisa said...

It's driving me crazy. I've only got a few old matches on tape and I keep watching them over and over. When I can't sleep at night I have long conversations in my head with utter strangers about football. I'm spending most of my time composing a rationalization so smooth that it will allow me without guilt (or with guilt, I don't care) to invest in (INVEST in. Did you catch that?) Fox Soccer Channel even though I have no job and, at this moment, no prospects. I have only a few more weeks before Premiership starts, so I'd better get back to it...

Zach Dundas said...

I somehow survive in an ESPN-, FSC- and GolTV-free household, and I literally fear what could happen—to my life, my work, my marriage, my soul—if I ever subscribed to either of the specialty channels. Considering that I once happily zoned out at 1 am to a Fox Sports World reshowing of a Thai league game, the results would likely not be pretty.

At the same time...La Liga? Hmm.

Derek said...

Knowing that GOL aired La Liga, and Barcelona games in particular, put me over the top. Now I feel I'm doomed. DOOMED! But I'm looking forward to watching Villarreal as well. Oh yeah, I'm doomed.

Lisa said...

A word about Cristiano Ronaldo: I admit that some of us have been casting the boy as scapegoat (and having some fun doing it, I might add). I will even, grudgingly, if pushed to the wall, admit that this might be a trifle unfair. My only defense (beyond a sad lack of emotional maturity) is that when a fellow goes so far and so constantly out of his way to make himself detestable, some of us are going to be more than willing to take him up on it. I'm not advocating itching powder in his knickers or anything. Although maybe if he were roundly hissed every time he touched the ball? For, oh, say, the rest of his career? Lovely! Think of it as character-building.

Lynda said...

The sole reason we got cable was for the soccer. Though I have to admit some relief mingled with my regret at the end of World Cup, due to the fact that there were actually some other things in my life I desperately needed to attend to, I have since found myself mesmerized in front of live matches from Ecuador and Colombia.

Hm, perhaps there is a soccer blogger soiree in our future.

As for Cristiano Ronaldo, he is a player I disliked from the moment I laid eyes on him. I will gladly hiss him from here to eternity.