Sunday, June 27, 2010

Right & Wrong - World Cup Round-Up

My first son is some kind of perceptual wizard. After sleeping through his little brother’s all-night a capella performance last night, not only did he have the wherewithal to wake me up at 5am to play cars, but had the previous evening strategically machine-gunned his toys all over the living room floor so I could catch the end of the US-Ghana match as I lined up Thomas the Tank Engine for another head-on collision with a green convertible driven by Ronald McDonald. A rather long and confusing explanation, you say? Welcome to my recent life.

I’ve got the England-Germany game on; Wayne Rooney is flopping around like a Gulf coast pelican.

It’s already taking me forever to write this. Number 8 on Germany looks like a cartoon character and I can’t figure out which one.

I played soccer for years growing up. Or should I say I was allowed to play soccer. My personal brand of it which, while not pretty, was basically harmless to the other players, on both teams. But nothing I pulled – inadvertently – compares with the circus known as this year’s group stage.

Forget those big kazoos, I’ve tuned them out by now, more or less. Still, South Africa better not hold their breath if they’re hoping to host the Olympic Games someday. Or wait, maybe that’s exactly what they should do.

I really have no business trying to give a rundown of events up to this point; between trying to keep my older son from feeding his little brother his pillow during the 8:30pm matches and digging around in a darkened kitchen for toothpicks to pry my eyelids open for the 3:30am games I miss a lot. Regardless, with the usual theme of decent soccer painfully absent from the group stage I am relegated to tossing out a completely and unabashedly disconnected review of the curious debacle happening in Africa, where people in the stands can be seen wearing winter coats.

Five minutes into the first match, South Africa – Uruguay, my only thought was of the hairstyles of the players on the field. I thought I was looking at a Black Music Stars of the 80’s convention: Milli Vanilli and Terence Trent Darby everywhere.

Algeria gets my vote for dirtiest team of the tournament; Ghezzal with his two yellows in ten minutes was only the icing on that ugly cake they baked up against Slovenia. On the flip side, Cameroon wins for fielding the coolest if not the most effective bunch of footballers. The Netherlands gets my nod for the best player names, Van Der Vaart and Klaas Jan Huntelaar among them. Gotta love the double a.

Fashion has been a rather hot topic around Boerland these days. Four years ago Italy seemed to stand out with their skin-tight jerseys. (Of course Italy, what would you expect?) Now it’s on ongoing international display of ‘look-at-my-pecs.’ Some will argue that the tight shirts are tougher for the opposition to grab and pull on; I also read a comment about them decreasing wind resistance – presumably so these guys can hit the ground even harder before writhing around in the agony of their fake injuries. But it’s obviously all a marketing ploy. I’ve never seen so many women in the stands before.

Speaking of women in the stands, what was up with all those Dutch women in their bright orange mini skirts being arrested? Banning bare legs while touting their ability to continue blowing their kazoos fifteen minutes after the game has ended; never mind the Olympics, South Africa isn’t going to get Pat Sajak on location if they keep it up. That sideline slogan – STAY ALIVE – SOUTH AFRICA – might not be helping either.

Everyone (okay, all eleven people in the US who cared) was up in arms about the goal that referee from Mali took away for offsides in the US-Slovenia match. Much worse though was Kaka from Brazil getting sent off when an opposing player next to him pulled a Wayne Rooney, throwing himself at the turf after Kaka’s elbow brushed against his non-wind-resistant jersey. But even this is understandable – it’s a fast game, the refs are bound to miss stuff like that. What I found absolutely unforgivable was the German coach and his assistant not being carded for their matching navy blue cardigan sweaters in the match against Serbia. They weren’t moving that fast, I don’t know how the refs missed it. Then tonight they switched to matching blue v-necks and were yet again able to get away with it. Now that they’ve disposed of England I can only speculate as to how they are going to flaunt their apparent disregard for decency when Germany takes on Argentina, who will undoubtedly beat Mexico as Maradona will manage to punch the ball into Mexico’s net without being called for it.

Everyone here is fired up for Japan’s match against Paraguay, and rightly so. Yet in Japan, as in baseball arbitration, it’s not what’s expected to happen so much as what has already happened that seems to matter. In the lead-up to the World cup Japan was giving about as much attention to Team Okada as they were to their own country’s ongoing practice of killing over 400 whales annually for ‘research purposes.’ Then they eke out a 1-0 win over eventual 3-game loser Cameroon and the entire population is rushing out to buy Honda jerseys. The guy wasn’t even on the ‘Kirin Lager – Support the Japan’ cardboard beer display racks for crying out loud. (And maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure he was even speaking Japanese in his post-game interview.) Suddenly he’s an icon, center of the 10-HOUR (I swear) pre-game show right before Japan got their collective attention smacked by Holland and everyone went back to meekly predicting a 1-0 win over Denmark. So perhaps now it’s a bit surprising that, having taken the Danes 3-1, Japan isn’t already building an airport to commemorate their 2010 World Cup championship.

Great, now it’s 2am and I’m wide awake because (a) I still can’t figure out who that Number 8 on Germany looks like, and (b) I’ve been eating cocoa puffs out of the box. I can probably stay awake for the 3:30 game even though we’re out of toothpicks but I know that in a few hours my son, having woken up at 5, gone the whole day without a nap and crashed at 8, is going to be replaying his early bird performance. And now his toys, strewn like the aftermath of any bar in England right now, are in a room where there’s no TV.

And he’s not going to let me get away with faking an injury.

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