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July 24, 2014 / Ben

My Backlogged World Cup Blog: Day 7: Scorned by Beauty

Day 7: Netherlands vs. Australia

Never leaving a game early is a proud tradition of mine passed down from my father. Even if it appears a particular game is decided early, you always get your money’s worth. After all you may just see something no one has seen before (although perhaps most true in for baseball). You may just see a miraculous comeback by your heroic hometown team. You may even see an awesome performance from forlorn supporters. But, I will grant there are some circumstances allowing for early departure. You are excused if it’s getting late, your team is getting whacked, and you’re not sure what time, if any, MARTA shuts down even if it’s obvious they will still need to transport fans back to their faraway places. Because that seems like a thing MARTA would do. You are also excused if you can only spend an allotted time due to real world work constraints. Unfortunately for me this last excuse had me miss out on arguably the most beautiful goal of the World Cup.

MARTA

I wanted to catch some soccer in a proper environment (i.e. a big screen television), so I set off for the local pizzeria/bar.. Because this is a backlogged blog series, I do not recall all of the details, but I must have been watching the end of the game before. I know this because I thought I needed to leave soon, perhaps once the first goal is scored. Why? Because usually excitement in soccer is spread throughout the 90 or so minutes of play. Plus, that’s usually how the world works. I’m not sure how the world would cope if three major international events happened all at once, but I digress. And so, I left when Robben notched the first tally. I eventually got back to my desk at work and saw the score tied. I was happy for underdog Australia. I then saw the equalizer was scored only one minute after I left. And then I saw the replay of the breathtaking beauty that escaped my live eyes by the slimmest of margins. Oh woe upon me! Oh the heartbreak! I do not even remember Robben’s goal.

FBL-WC-2014-MATCH04-CHI-AUS

July 13, 2014 / Ben

My Backlogged World Cup Blog: Day 5: Highs and Lows

Day 5: USA vs. Ghana

I was keeping up with the scores from the early games at work when I learned of the unexpected and untimely death of baseball legend Tony Gwynn. This news hit me hard. As a huge baseball fan and a 90s kid, Gwynn was one of the first giants of the game (and by proxy, life) I had the privilege to watch. No one else in the game at the time or since has shown the prolonged excellence at the art of hitting a ball with a bat that Gwynn did. Many kids liked Ken Griffey because of his supposedly sweet swing that everyone always has to mention whenever his name comes up. But I always thought anyone could do that if they take an uppercut hack at every pitch. No one, since at least Ted Williams, could do what Gwynn did, but lots of people can hit home runs. Gwynn was a man with uncommon consistency, vision, and steadfastness in doing what he did well. The stories that have since come out about Gwynn’s humanity only serve to add on to what he accomplished in entertaining millions through baseball. Or maybe they are unsurprising given the values he displayed through baseball. Or perhaps it is the other way around…

Gwynn

It was strange to transition from the news to the US-Ghana game, but it had to be done. I took my seat at the sports bar expecting a typical American grind-it-out type of game. But no. In the very first minute, Clint Dempsey scored the most un-American goal I’ve ever seen and it was beautiful. Literally this was the opposite of Landon Donovan’s famous goal against Algeria in 2010. Dempsey slickly took the pass from Jermaine Jones with a little dipsy-doodle and then finessed his shot perfectly just out of the keeper’s reach and off the far post. American soccer players do not just waltz into games and take charge. I was hoping this new swagger represented a new way of United States soccer under coach Klinsmann. Unfortunately, the US remembered they were the US for the rest of the 389 minutes of regulation they played. Nonetheless, the US escaped with the victory by the hairs on their collective chinny chin chins. But I will give credit to Ghana for their own slick goal. Most people around me acted so devastated when Ghana scored that I don’t think they realize how nice it was. I don’t why. There was plenty of time left to score the game-winner, which John Brooks promptly did.

DempseyGhana

June 30, 2014 / Ben

My Backlogged World Cup Blog: Day 2: What is Beauty?

Day 2: Netherlands vs. Spain

vanPersie

Robin van Persie channeled his spirit animal, Sea World dolphin, to beautifully head in a goal and start the unexpected romp against defending champions Spain. (Is it too late to introduce #Spainked? Yes, yes it is.) A lot of people said that van Persie’s goal would be one of the best of the Cup, some even saying it will be the best. To these people I ask, “really?” It was just a header! Yes, it was nearly from the top of the box, but van Persie had so much space and a giant window for which to aim. When I first saw the play developing, I knew that the only way to ensure a point was to do exactly what he did. Most great plays are a result of a player’s creativity that nobody saw coming. But I will concede that van Persie perfectly utilized Newton’s three laws of motion to set forth a majestically soaring unstoppable arc of a shot. He envisioned what it was he needed to do, and he did it. To perfection. And isn’t that one of the beautiful feelings in the world when that happens?

dolphin

June 30, 2014 / Ben

My Backlogged World Cup Blog: Day 1: How Soccer Explains Corruption

Day 1: The World Cup kicked off amid controversy surrounding social and economic issues of the home country, Brazil. (Although, can it really be called a controversy when everyone has decided to completely ignore it?) A simple man like myself might ask, why is there corruption in Brazil? Why does it seem like there has to be corruption in the world? Similarly provoking of thought is the act of diving in soccer. Much decried and ridiculed by  most spectators, especially here in the US, the players themselves take a conservative, yet absurd, stance on histrionics. Understandably, no one wants to start a feud or get caught up in awkward controversy when their own teammate crosses the line. In the opening festivities between Brazil and Croatia, the game was essentially decided when Croatian player Dejan Lovren lightly caressed the beautifully mono-named Fred on the shoulder and Fred responded in kind, collapsing to the ground  as if the weight of the world just dropped on him.

LovrenFred

Many spectators were not only disgusted by Fred, but also by the referee. I have not heard any player speak out against Fred. Some even said they not only would have done the same thing in that situation, but also would have encouraged their teammates to do the same. At least, such is what US goalkeeper Tim Howard said. Unfortunately this is the culture of the supposedly beautiful game. The players would rather disparage the ref, even after the game, for not making the proper call in real time (which is really hard, by the way), than chastising purposely fraudulent behavior. They pretend they are kids, absolved of all responsibility for what happens in the playground, and the ref is the only adult on the field of twenty-two who has the power to take initiative. So you see, soccer explains why there is corruption in Brazil, in the world, and even in FIFA itself, the governing body of soccer. Everybody within the system (the players) rationalizes when other people (their teammates) push and pull on the lines that govern ethical society. Even when it goes too far. It is interesting  that even the people we most lionize suffer from the same faults as the rest of us in human society.

May 2, 2014 / Ben

Adventures in Popular Music #3 -Contrived Cool

I am not sure if ‘dark horse’ doesn’t mean what Katy Perry (and production team) thinks it means or if I should applaud her creative use of the word in her eponymous smash hit. Having heard this song way overplayed on the radio (or all other perfectly fine pop songs being underplayed), I decided to watch the music video. It dawned on me that every time I heard the requisite hip-hop cameo guy doing the intro and saying “featuring Jessie J” (a female singer) he was actually announcing himself “Juicy J.” Come on pop music, get your act together! How are you going to have a Jessie J and a Juicy J? Seriously. But I digress.

I have no problem with the music video for “Dark Horse” being historically inaccurate and stupid as even Youtube commenters have picked up. This was done on purpose. What I find perverted about the video is the extravagant lengths Katy Perry and producers go to aggressively shove in your face the fact that they don’t take themselves seriously. Ostentatious costumes, makeup, and graphic effects all just to tell you how chill Katy Perry is. The overwrought cheesiness of the video reminds me of a person who is not cool trying to show everyone how cool they are. In this case, Katy Perry is already deemed as cool, which makes the video automatically cool. People will say, “wow, look at how she doesn’t take herself that seriously. She is so down to earth!” But if a person deemed as uncool, say Rebecca Black, or someone generally unknown, made the exact same video, I am sure it would be comprehensively panned by the refined and esteemed audience that is pop culture consumers.

Plus, the song itself is not even a silly song. I mean, it is, but it’s not supposed to be. The song is about Katy Perry being some sort of aggressive romantic strong woman. But the video is an inversion of the actual song! In the video, potential suitors to Queen Katy Perry try to be the dark horse candidate for her love while she sits in her throne and acts entirely superficial and stereotypically girly.

The video is essentially stupid on multiple levels. But that’s okay. People sometimes decide to like and even celebrate stupid stuff. Case in point: sports rivalries, getting crunk, the movie Super Troopers. But that’s being stupid for the sake of being stupid (which I’m not attacking for now). On the other hand, this video is stupid for the sake of selling us a personality. Hundreds of thousands of dollars (I have no idea how much) spent on trying to convince us that Katy Perry is just this really cool gal.  How about instead of acting cool, just being cool? Cool sells itself. Pretense sells itself out.

Katy Perry should have just made funny faces while a trashcan full of money burns in the background. At least it would have wasted less money.

April 6, 2014 / Ben

MLS Wayfarer (Part 1)

As a big soccer fan in the United States of America from the southeastern region, I have found myself a bit marginalized by my country’s major league of soccer, Major League Soccer (MLS). To remedy this grave oversight, I shall set out on a most wondrous and daunting quest of finding my MLS team.  Alas, I admit, I have attempted this before, when I was young and naïve. But this changes now.

The beauty of capitalism is that it allows the consumer to choose whatever it is they are consuming. The ability to choose based on price, quality, tradition, looks, or any other factor is really what America is all about. This market system is traditionally the opposite of sports. You choose your team based on geographic location and no other factors. It is rational irrationality. Location is the most useful parameter of choosing your team, but what if the team closest to you flat-out sucks and is horribly managed? Why on earth would you give this team your support; this team that did absolutely nothing for you in order to deserve your support? Because it is fun and we are pathetic creatures thirsting for burdens to break our backs. Truly, if we can handle the weight of suffering, it increases the joy of success immeasurably.

If you support the best on-field products for no other reason than their success and quality of play, you are a bandwagoner. A mark of shame upon you.  But this is madness- you’re but a smart consumer, an industrial capitalist who knows what’s really up. You’ve got gumption and you don’t take lip from nobody!

Even though I would very much like Atlanta to have its own team, could I really still root for that team based on our geographical commonalities? I do not live there anymore, but I imagine I would feel a parallel sense of gratitude along with the other soccer fans of Atlanta. Being neglected soccerwise is a part of who I am, so would not the only way to redemption involve my hometown getting its own MLS team? And me cheering them on to championship after championship?

But this is beside the point. Time does not wait. Would it not be nice to have my own team to cheer for at this very moment? Thusly, I must immediately commence this most splendid journey. Now, the world turns, fan and his team reaching out to a disconnected nothingness. Soon, the threads of fandom will tie them together. Perhaps in the form of a scarf.

I have found the most effective method for keeping up with the MLS is to watch the game recap videos on mlssoccer.com. Highlights typically last 6-8 minutes, so it is a bit of hassle to keep up with the entire league. On top of that, watching 22 players each video, with 9 games per week is asking a lot in terms of remembering who all these gallivanting heroes are.

Before I begin, I must define the parameters I will use to judge all parties vying for my loyalty. One thing I have noticed in watching the full highlight videos is there are some things in the broadcast I like and some I really do not. Seeing as how I will necessarily be only able to watch my team via broadcast, it only makes sense that these things impact my quest. I want to bless my eyes with the beauty that is the beautiful game.

One thing that I really do not enjoy is the terrible visual quality of the broadcasts. It makes it hard to keep on watching. In my opinion (I acknowledge I have no expertise in the matter), if you increase camera quality, you increase viewers and supporters. And do not tell me these broadcast companies cannot afford nice cameras. I will scoff at you.

Another thing I find displeasing is artificial turf. It is UGLY. It makes me want to wash my eyes out with soap, which is something I find terrifying. It makes the broadcast look even worse, as if the cameras do not have the contrast to pick out the different mowed patterns on the field, which of course there are none. Because it is turf.

First, I will grade teams’ stadiums and broadcasts to narrow down the field.  Once I have found my frontrunners, I will turn to analyzing team management and style of play. Not only should my team be broadcast in a beautiful light, but we should share a common outlook on soccer, and by proxy, life itself (obviously). The following categories are how I will first rank my prospective suitors.

Field: turf or grass- is the grass a lush wonderland?

Shadow: does the stadium cast an obnoxious shadow during day games?

Camera angle: does the camera allow a healthy vantage point from which to see everything?

The first round of results from opening weekend is presented below. I’m employing a 1-3 grading scale, which may change in the future if this experiment goes horribly.


 

Game 1- Chivas USA vs. Chicago @ StubHub Center

Disappointingly, this game turned out to be the only day game of the weekend. Appointingly, the shadows of the stadium had no effect on the pitch. One theme throughout this esteemed of weekends was plainly mowed grass versus Astroturf (more on this abomination later). I am sure you will agree that it is hard to get excited about plainly mowed grass, which you can see below:

Pic1

I also felt that the camera angle was either a bit too low or a bit too far from the field.

Shadows: 3

Grass: 2

Camera angle: 2

Notes: Spanish commentators?!?! I am all for simulcasts in multiple languages, but c’mon! Does this mean that their main broadcast is in Spanish? I get the whole Chivas brand thing, but this is still just so fundamentally wrong. I am not even counting the fact that the actual Mexican Chivas owner recently sold the team, relegating the “Chivas” to even less legitmacy than it had before.

Hashtag: #FreeTheGoats


 

Game 2- LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake @ StubHub Center

Same stadium with a better pedigree of competition. But this experiment is about stadiums, not teams! Hence, ratings are the same. Although imagine my surprise when I saw the following in the intro:

Pic2

Wow, look at that really neat criss-cross pattern! They accomplished such magnificent precision after the Chivas USA-Chicago game? While I agree that Chivas is the redheaded stepchild of LA soccer, that’s a pretty harsh slap in the face. Wait a second…

Pic3

Darn you baiting-and-switching television broadcasting rapscallions!

Shadows: N/A

Grass: 2

Camera angle: 2

Notes: Cobi Jones is on the broadcast team. COBI JONES IS ON THE BROADCAST TEAM.

Hashtag: #BlimpRentIsTooDamnHigh


 

Game 3- Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union @ Providence Park

Providence Park is quite literally a glorious name. Yet, how can a Park of Providence be composed of synthetic chemicals and scientific formulations conceived in a laboratory? Surely this abomination is not an appropriate pitch on which the Lord intended the service of the beautiful game to be performed. Otherwise, I think the stadium itself is quite aesthetically pleasing. Alas, what is important in these rankings is things between the white lines. In the stadium, the camera felt disappointingly low and far from the pitch.

Shadows: N/A

Grass: 1

Camera angle: 1

Notes: None

Hashtag: #GrassScienceGetOnIt


 

Game 4- FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact @ Toyota Stadium

Toyota Stadium has some nice looking grass. I wouldn’t mind falling asleep whilst watching shooting stars (hehe) on that pitch. While the quality looks class, the grounds crew stuck with the tried-and-true stripes spanning the field hamburgerwise (and now I am wondering if pitches are ever mowed hotdogwise). Camera seemed a bit low for my taste, which appears to be also turning into a running theme in MLS soccer.

Shadows: N/A

Grass: 2

Camera angle: 2

Notes: There is a strange blue wall that lines the crowd on the field side. It is strange because Dallas’ main color is just red. Granted, their away color is blue, but it is my understanding that they do not play their away games at home. It is strange because Dallas could have chosen to wear their away or second jersey to match their home grounds. It is strange because by choosing to wear red, Dallas allowed Montreal to wear their primary blue jerseys, which happen to feature an extremely similar shade of blue. Really, Dallas just needs to embrace the Blue. I remember when the Atlanta Thrashers randomly decided to become Blueland, with blue-hued jerseys and …well maybe that was about it. I did not really understand the sudden change, but you are damned right I embraced it.

Pic4

Hashtag: #HamburgerStripes


 

Game 5- Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution @ BBVA Compass Stadium

While the name of this establishment is quite a mouthful, it also has “Compass” in the name, which is cool… I guess. The Compass featured solid lawnage and cameraness. I felt that the location of the camera closely matched what I am more accustomed to for high level soccer. Height and closeness to the field just offers more for the camera to capture.

Shadows: N/A

Grass: 2

Camera angle: 3

Notes: None

Hashtag: #PerfectlyCromulent


 

Game 6- Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New York Red Bulls @ BC Place

And here comes a place with an exceedingly minimalistic name. I am greatly amused by using “Place” as a proper noun. It is just so undescriptive. Once again, this sporting arena features that dastardly artificial turf that represents the unavoidable disappointment encompassing all human endeavors, in us all. The camera may be at the optimal height, but I cannot tell if it is further away from the field as is fitting, or if BC Place just has very wide field. The far sideline is so far away. I want to caress it back into a proper dimension, but alas.

Shadows: N/A

Grass: 1

Camera angle: 2

Notes: None

Hashtag: #Place


 

Game 7- DC United vs. Columbus Crew @ RFK Stadium

Solid grass and decent camera placement. For now, I will rate the camera positively, but I do not feel confident about this ranking. Note that all the rankings will be subject to change at the author’s discretion. I found this screenshot highly amusing, because you can see all of the Crew’s outfield players. I do not know if the camera angle is just good, or if Columbus is just being good ol’ funky Columbus.

Pic5

Shadows: N/A

Grass: 1

Camera angle: 2

Notes: I have little sense of fashion, but I hate the Crew’s jerseys. They look like the printer ran out of ink mid-print. They look like weird maternity garb. Here is a top section and here is a distinctly different bottom section. They look like weird blouses for teenage girls trying to get the attention of teenage boys. Here is a bottom part, but here is the distinctly different top part for you to direct your eyeballs. I mean, isn’t this discreteness of color and pattern basically the same thing as when more fashion-inclined folk tell me my clothes are “clashing?”

CrewJerseyOf course, the USMNT just came out with this third jersey.USAJersey

It just does not look right to me, like a needlessly constructed clashing of sorts.
Hashtag: #FunkyColumbus


 

Game 8- Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC @ CenturyLink Field

When it comes to the vegetation aspects of soccer, the sporting palaces of the Pacific Northwest really need to get their act together. Artificial turf: the hole in all of our souls, from which a grotesque human-like fist emerges and smacks us in our eyeballs. Meanwhile, particular aspects of the camera are certainly appreciated.

Shadows: N/A

Grass: 1

Camera angle: 2

Notes: CenturyLink Field just looks so interesting. Everyone is in green plastic parka things. It is reminiscent of a large cult gathering participating in a strange ritual involving a radioactive god.

Pic6

I would very much like to point out the contrast between this heretical temple and Providence Park, home of Seattle’s bitter rivals.

Hashtag: #PNWCmonMan


 

In summary:

 

Week 1
MLS Stadium Opponents Time Shadows Grass Camera Angle
LA Chivas USA-Chicago Day 3 2 2
LA Galaxy-RSL Night N/A 2 2
Portland Timbers-Union Night N/A 1 1
Dallas FC Dallas-Montreal Night N/A 2 2
Houston Dynamo-New Eng. Night N/A 2 3
Vancouver Whitecaps- NYRB Night N/A 1 2
DC DC United-Crew Night N/A 2 3
Seattle Sounders-KC Night N/A 1 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 26, 2014 / Ben

Weird Moments in Braves History (#3)

HOF Buddies

The recent induction into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame of Braves legends Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine deserves some commemoration by yours truly. Glavine kind of ruins it though because I can’t find anything particularly weird on him.

Allow yourself to be bathed in the glow of Braves weirdness via a special multimedia extravaganza featuring ’90s things that I have painstakingly prepared for your benefit by clicking the following link.

http://youtubedoubler.com/bxgZ

 

Obligatory bad poem:

There once was a pitcher named Greg Maddux

After the Cubs, he decided that being bad sucks

He went for a trot

Almost got caught

Til he juked the catcher with his mad tricks

 

And without the glorious musical accompaniment:

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