Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World Cup Blogging in Surreal Time

The evils of the Internet, not to mention the social media, have gotten their claws into me. Ten years ago I could watch any major sporting event on tape delay without having to worry in the meantime that Yahoo or MSN.com or half the facebook world would ruin it for me. Now here I am, awake and on  my undersized couch at 3:30am for the Germany-Spain match.

I didn't drink coffee ten years ago either.

I am actually pretty fired up that I decided to set my alarm. That tinny electronic version of Canon broke in half the worst dream I can remember having, ever. It involved a conversation - a conversation! - about global warming. Who has dreams like that?

Well the match is underway, so let's get to it.

I predict a win for Germany because they don't have anyone with long hair. This is my infallible barometer for predicting success on the football (soccer) pitch (field). Sound crazy? Look at Holland. Half their team doesn't even have hair. What other explanation can there be for a country of ten million people living in constant danger of being flooded into oblivion making it to the World Cup finals? It helped that they were up against Uruguay in the semi-final; Uruguay, a country of three million people and, apparently, no barbers.

This hair formula works for individuals too: all-time leading scorer in World Cup play? Ronaldo, with only that wedge of hair on his otherwise clean-shaven head. Germany's Klose and Mueller are right behind him. Klose's hair has gotten shorter with each successive goal he has scored, check the replays from 2006 if you don't believe me. Mueller's put the ball in the net three times in the last two matches, but then he didn't shave and thus yellow-carded himself right out of today's match (game) against Spain, who does have the neatly-trimmed David Villa on their side as well as the tamed golden mane of Fernando Torres, but if a couple of those guys don't visit the team stylist at halftime Spain is done for. It's as simple as that.

Maybe they've already made their appointments, because early on Spain seems to have the time-of-possession edge, despite being interrupted in Germany's territory by some nut job who decided to run onto the field less than four minutes into the match. I'll never understand some people. He should have at least made some kind of deal and run out in front of three billion people waving a Budweiser banner for some cash.

We're already thirty minutes in and while both teams have had their chances there have been no serious scoring threats. Okay, Puyol from Spain was given a great opportunity on a perfect cross from the right side but he had long hair and his header went flying way over the crossbar.

Since the match started I've been feeling a bit off. Normally a 3:15am alarm will do this to me - if a 3:15am alarm were normal. But I just realized what it is. I'm not hearing those kazoos. The TV is turned way down, sure, but I can hear the Japanese announcers just fine. Two weeks of World Cup play and my brain has tuned out the noise. It took me almost a full month before I was sleeping through my baby's nighttime screaming sessions. Lucky for me my wife doesn't care about the World Cup and hasn't had the selective hearing training that I've had.

I love watching sports on Japanese TV; all the relative terms the commentators use are actually the English words, spoken in the Japanese syllabary. 'Deh-viddo Bee-ra ga ref-to sigh-do ni, ku-rossu boh-ru, headin-gu shoo-TOH!' (Please email me directly for the official translation, as well as the incidental distinction of being the first person in history to officially comment on my blog.)

It's already halftime. What happened? No yellow cards? These guys better try harder in the second half.

It's 4:15am now, and despite the thick rainy-season cloud cover it's getting light out. This doesn't bode well for me in terms of getting any sleep once this match is over. My son still isn't old enough to understand that wake-up time is based on how late daddy was up the night before, not on some silly solar event.

Okay, second half is starting, I've got another cup of coffee by my side and...wait a minute! Fernando Torres is still on the bench! What is Spain's coach thinking? Fernando just recently got his hair cut! There are plenty of crossbar-clearing hippies still running around out there. I think we are beginnning to see why Spain has not been living up to its Number One ranking lately.

For those of you who still doubt my reasoning, ask yourself: Did Pele ever need a hairband?

One of Germany's players is named Schweinsteiger. Now, I was a mere German language and literature minor in college, meaning I could get by if I was able to discuss in German the relative pros and cons of German beer. (This of course made easier by the fact there are no cons.) But if I recall correctly, Schwein means pig while Steiger means someone who climbs or mounts. Check the math yourself, but personally I would not be out there in front of half the TV-owning world with the name 'Pig-mounter' on my back.

While we are on the subject of names, what is up with David Villa having his full name across the back of his jersey? Anyone who actually cares who is who out there will probably be astute enough to understand that big Number 7 under the Villa means it's David. On the other hand, there's also a guy named 'Xrvi' on the Spanish side. He should have his full name on his shirt just for the fan interest factor.

Twenty minutes into the second half, Spain is getting some solid chances but Neuer the German goalie keeps turning them away. I can deal with 0-0 matches if guys are getting dirty out there.

SCORE!! Spain goes ahead with a borderline insurmountable 1-0 lead on a header off a corner kick. Strange thing is, Puyol put it in. This is the same muppet who headed it over the crossbar in the first half. He must have gotten a trim during the break.

I'm rooting for Germany by the way. It often happens that I don't know who I want to win until the match has started and I find myself pulling for one side or the other. Today was no exception to that, and I just now realized why. The German and Dutch languages are similar enough that opposing players can hold a decent argument with each of them speaking their own language. With two completely different languages at work - say, English and Japanese - it is much more difficult for two people (soccer players, husband and wife, etc.) to get a good jawing going. If Uruguay had beaten Holland I would be rooting for Spain now. And yes, I would be able to hear the players yelling at each other now that I've tuned out the chorus of kazoos.

Ah, the Spanish coach is coming to his senses - he's putting Fernando Torres and his neatly-trimmed coif into the game. But hold on...he's taking out David Villa? He's got shorter hair than the new and improved Fernando! And that tiny trianglular goatee Villa is sporting can't be the problem, that thing is barely long enough to merit a dab of mousse, even in Spain (but would get one in Italy).

Germany's got three minutes left to put the ball in the net. Spain took out both Portugal and Paraguay with 1-0 efforts; I didn't think that would be enough against the impeccably-clipped German scoring machine.

Now Spain is making a substitution with less than a minute of extra time remaining. This is what used to happen in town league basketball games. What, did someone's mother complain that her son wasn't getting any playing time? And there's the final whistle, and he's still on the sideline, jumping up and down as if to ward off the barrage of pulled muscles his 8 seconds of playing time would bring.

Great, so now I'm looking at a World Cup final consisting of inarticulate arguments and a probable 1-0 score as Spain doesn't seem to know how to do anything else. Unless of course their coach takes my call and sends Puyol to the Cape Town Barber Shop before the weekend. Or Holland continues to put their receding hairlines to work. Who hasn't noticed how many of their goals have come off of headers? (Except for their first goal against Brazil, which was a gift as a long-haired defender got in the goalie's way allowing Sneijder's pass - that was in no way a shot - to end up in the net.)

So it's coming up on 5:30am, it's light out, the clouds are even clearing and the family is still all asleep. I suppose I could try to get a little more shut-eye but recently my son has gotten into this early-to-bed-early-to-rise cycle and has been waking me up at 6:00 by sticking his face into mine and saying 'Daddy let's eat breakfast!' Not even a gentle shake or a nice easy good morning or even a kazoo which would be fine since I can't hear those anymore. Just a blunt, grinning 'Welcome back to the new world order, dad. I want cereal.' And another day will be lost in the vortex that is parenthood.

So maybe it's good that I have to wake up in the middle of the night to watch these games. This is my time. The next Olympics are in London, which means a lot of the best stuff will be on in the wee hours here in Japan. If I'm really lucky I won't be working at all by then. Of course my second son will be pulling the same wake-up call routine that his older brother is throwing me now.

But that's cool; at the end of the day I love being a dad.

I'm going to need more coffee though.