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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:

January 21, 2014 / Ben

Atlanta January 1998

When the San Francisco 49ers were playing at the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday, they were most certainly playing for the right to lose to the Denver Broncos in the Superbowl. Actually, I didn’t mean “lose.” I meant “get thoroughly destroyed.” I should know. I was there.

Morten

In another tightly contested NFC Championship game, heavy crowd-pleasing favorite and generally uninspiring underdog locked heads in a surprisingly tightly contested clash. Decided by a fluke, yet determined by our might, this was our time. If we could go do battle with Goliath on his field (“field”)… if we could go do battle and give it our all… if we could go do battle, give it our all, and match our fearsome opponents blow-by-blow… if we could not just do all that, but do all that and emerge victors, we could do it again against anybody any day any time any place.

All battles really would truly come down to that glorious cliché that the winner is the one who wants it the most. Who wouldn’t want “it” more than the underdog nobody believed in? No one. Suddenly firepower meant nothing in the presence of a beating heart. A beating heart communicating with a brain lost in wonder, transforming neural connections way past their Gd-given boundaries of reasoning and sense.

School assembly in the cafeteria to celebrate our collective victory called upon all of us to work ourselves into a state of unfettered awkward fervor doing the war dance of our mighty warrior heroes. Yes, we small Berserker children emulated the faithful vanguards of our glorious city by performing our homeland’s ethnic ritual whose name roughly translates to “the Dirty Bird.”

And then it all goes away. One of our men on the frontline unjustly (or justly?) fell the night before war. Alas, the following events would have transpired just the same.  One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time on one of the greatest teams of all time, the Denver Broncos, would absolutely demolish our hopes and dreams, never even allowing us a glimpse of that golden glory.

And so, history clearly rears its head, turns in a full circle while indiscriminately thrashing around its scaly, gnarled tail, and tramples all over innocent little daisies in the search for delicious tiny osprey eggs. And some guy named Rod streaks through the defense, scorching the land, and my heart.

If Peyton helicopters, Gd save us all.

July 21, 2013 / Ben

Weird Moments in Braves History (#2)

(The picture is a link to a video)

One of the most magical moments in Braves history. Consider that this coincided with an extended time period in which the Braves were just awful. It used to upset me knowing the Braves couldn’t rally around the ridiculous clutchness of this hit and win the game, even though this occurred before I was born. Who am I kidding? It still bothers me slightly. Amazing nonetheless.

Rick Camp passed away earlier this year and appeared to be not such a good guy later in life, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about that moment of glory, the magic, the sheer ridiculousness. Even the preternaturally prophetic call. And how about that timing? Could there be any better representation of the American spirit for the 4th of July than a display in the upward social mobility that is a .074 lifetime hitting pitcher underdog with nothing to lose suddenly transformed into power hitting hero?

And so, in homage, I present to you a bad limerick:

 

Bottom 18, the end was nigh

Rick Camp, the pitcher, ripped a deep fly

A twist silly like putty

Certifiably nutty

As the 4th became the 5th of July

July 17, 2013 / Ben

Adventures in Popular Music #2 -Bad Lyrics

In this objectively dulcet song, Cat Stevens offers a hypothetical dialogue between father and son. This should be a great song.  But it’s not, because of one very small part. The suspect lyrics in question occur early on with the father speaking to the son:

You’re still young/That’s your fault

What?? How is that the son’s fault? How is the father blaming his own child’s youth on the child?! First of all, how is that something to point fingers about? “Haha, son, you’re so young. Your problem, not mine!” Secondly, even if it were anyone’s fault, it is clearly that of the father of the mother. I’m fairly certain the son had no control over the matter. Wait…did he steal a secret restorative potion from Ponce de Leon’s secret ancestors’ secret stash?!? Because I would totally watch that movie. Thirdly, how did it not occur to Stevens to say “That’s not your fault,” as the lyric??? It fits in so easily! And it actually sounds like something a compassionate father might say to his son.

In this feel good, saccharine tune, Daniel Powter pleads for you to turn your frown upside-down; a noble pursuit. However, toward the end the song starts to run out of steam. I theorize that Powter knew he had one-hit wonder gold halfway through his song, and thought it would be ok to half-ass one of his lines he just couldn’t get to fit. The mess in question is the last line in the following:

Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I’m not wrong

Just as before, there are multiple facets that anger me about this. The last line completely disrupts the flow of the song. Powter tries to inculcate his audience with an uplifting melody and ‘you’re better than this’  inspirational proddings.  Most of the lines in his song are metaphors that almost don’t make any sense (what does “kick up the leaves and the magic is lost” even mean?) all the while being in 2nd person. This line is neither of those things. It arguably breaks the fourth wall.

The music and lyrics come off as heartfelt, so why does Powter feel the need to insist on the truth of his wisdom? Is he one of those people who always has to be right and make sure you know he is? Was there reason to doubt the singer up to that point? And if there was, why would plainly saying “I’m not wrong,” change that? The line is so lazy; it could literally go in 99% of every song ever made because we can assume that any singer (or the narrator of the song) believes in what is being sung. Lastly, even though he rhymes the word ‘wrong’ with ‘strong,’ he still rhymes ‘wrong’ with ‘wrong.’ Come on!

Finally, I just want to point out that “Bad Day” and the more recent “Good Time” by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen were both uber popular. The songs are polar opposites. Mainstream music, you’re so silly.

May 26, 2013 / Ben

Adventures in Popular Music #1

It is a habit of mine to listen to pop music when I’m in my car. Contrary to what you are likely to believe, I am not a sophisticated man. I could say that I need to listen to  this drivel while driving because otherwise I would get distracted by the complexities and nuances of actual music, and being the incredibly safe, precise, smooth, and handsome driver I am, well… this would be bad.

But that wouldn’t be true. I am  just not a very auditory person and I am not above the baseness that is the big entertainment-industrial complex. Or something.

It was during one of my regular every day automobile jaunts that a particular popular song attuned itself into my ears. It seemed generic and unnecessarily noisy. And then I heard that universal beeping warning that heralds the presence of any large vehicle moving in reverse. You know the one. Upon further reflection, there was no actual truck, bulldozer, or bus backing up. However, I later realized that whenever this song returned to my hexed car speakers, my ears would once again pick up this profane intonation. I later found out the song is called “Heart Attack” and is sung by Demi Lovato.

Now maybe I am just crazy or mayhap this was just that moment where I just realized I’m too old for this crap, like when Randy Marsh tried listening to his son’s music (except replace the fart sounds with buses-backing-up sounds). Curiously, the offending sound does not emerge until more than two minutes into the song.

I present to you evidence A. [Apparently I can't use timestamps here; play the video at about 2:18.]

That’s actually all the evidence.

Further research has yielded no similar accounts.

May 12, 2013 / Ben

Orb and Company Seek to Follow the Footsteps of Miguel Cabrera

Orb, winner of the 139th Kentucky Derby, jockey Joel Rosario, and trainer Shug McGaughey have been thoroughly enjoying and reveling in their victory of exciting fashion this past week and have since begun preparations for the Preakness Stakes.  After coming from behind down the stretch to beat the field on a mucky, sloppy track, these receptacles of fortune’s grace are turning their respective attentions toward the future. But of course, not too far ahead. Upon questioning, Rosario insists they are taking it “one race at a time.” McGaughey chimes in, “of course it would be amazing to win the Triple C, but you can’t do that without winning the first two. No one’s done it in 35 years. No reason to expect we will be the ones to change that.”

Orb and jockey

Orb and jockey Joel Rosario

Perhaps Rosario and McGaughey are just modest men in complete understanding of their situation. This esteemed journalist believes, however, they are merely employing what is commonly known as the reverse jinx. Verily, McGaughey’s claim that in nearly twoscore years past, there hasn’t been but a one Triple Crown champion is a lie. Boldfaced, perhaps? I’ll let you decide. Just last year, 2012, Miguel Cabrera became the first since 1978 to win the famed and fabled Crown. Curiously, Miguel Cabrera nearly missed out on MVP (most valuable pony) honors to what appears to have been a young up-and-coming fish. Regardless, Miguel Cabrera has shown that

When pressed further, Rosario and McGaughey dismissed me, somewhat unceremoniously and definitely unnecessarily, I might say. This reporter was able to inquire to Orb on his thoughts regarding whether or not his jockey and trainer were too harsh on me, saying, “Neigh.”

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