Sunday, June 27, 2010

Late-Night Thoughts on the World Cup Exit

The cruel irony of Gyan's extra-time winner that knocked us out of the World Cup is that his world-class strike is exactly what we failed to produce in any of our four matches.

You can blame the early goals. You can blame the lineup choices. You can blame the poor luck. And that all makes sense. But at the end of the day we exited the tournament with nary a goal from our front line. Boy oh boy, think we missed Charlie Davies out there?
Déjà vu: A 2-1 loss to Ghana knocking us out of the World Cup for the second straight tournament. But what was an abomination in 2006 was playing with house money in 2010. Four years ago there was disgust. This time around there was only disappointment. It still stings, though. It stings hard. For all the silver linings, for all the talk of Bradley's breakout and Jozy's experience-pickup, I'm absolutely gutted by this loss. Gutted. Never before, and perhaps never again, was it or will it be easier for the United States to reach the semifinals, and we came up short in a winnable match. It hurts. And I feel it.

An incredible run by the boys, one that's to be commended and applauded and saluted. The individual memories will linger in our collective soccer psyche and the American sporting zeitgeist forever: Donovan's bailout against Algeria, Robert Green's howler to earn us a draw, the comeback against Slovenia. But just because we met expectations, and thrilled and captivated the world in the process, doesn't mean we should dismiss what happened today in Rustenberg. We failed today.

Ultimately Bradley's starting lineup doomed us to defeat. The need for an early sub to replace the incomparably awful Rico Clark through off the entire game plan. Robbie Findley can't finish to save his life, a tragically flawed experiment. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it's pretty clear that Edu and Feilhaber should have started from the outset, with Deuce up in the Gerrardian substriker role. Sure we evened the score at 1-1, but only one sub left in a 120-minute match left us with tired legs that precluded us from pulling off our usual late-match heroics. That second 15-minute period spotlighted a tired, tired team. We needed at least one pair of non-Gomez fresh legs, but we didn't have any because of the odd choices Bradley the Elder made in selecting the squad.

Our back line got beat badly. Twice. Howard didn't play his best game, getting beat on the near post for the first goal. And Jozy didn't show for the third time in four matches (Algeria being the exception). This one exposed some glaring weaknesses in the US squad that need to be addressed as we move ahead as one of the world's growing powers. We need a partner for Bradley. We need strength AND pace in the back. And we need to maximize Jozy's potential while pairing him with someone who can use his skills (please be a healthy Charlie Davies). We'll likely need a new manager as well, and here's to hoping that Bradley the Younger harbors no ill will if we don't renew his daddy's contract.

I'm all for being pleased by the performance. In the end, I had a better time watching this team than just about any team in any sport in my lifetime, and that includes Stanley Cup winners and World Series winners. And I will be there from now until 2014 to root for the USMNT every step of the way. But I'm also miserable thinking about what could have been an impeccable run for the ages. We coulda had class. We coulda been a contender. We coulda been somebody. Instead, I'll watch the rest of the tournament knowing just what coulda been.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Phish From Vermont

Still trying to wrap my head around this weekend's antics...but in case you want some preliminary and generic thoughts, head over to Hidden Track for my initial onslaught. Legs hurt. Lots.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Always a Year or Two Behind...

So I started a Twitter account...maybe I'll neglect it too, as I do this pathetic excuse for a masturbatory exercise. So, if you're able, follow along. I'm not sure why you wouldn't be able. Maybe if someone throws acid into your ocular cavities? Even then, I'd hope you'd find someone to read my golden thoughts to you.

My first: Is it me, or are there a whole lotta "sank you"s at the Oscars tonight?

Ahhh, the ol' reliable, can't go wrong with casual racism.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Treatise On Evigan, Blago & Others

It occurs to me that I've not posted word one on this here rag since the night before that Obamuhhh chap beat the high-fastening pants off the creepy guy with the old balls and his sassy broad of an eye-twitchin' sidekick. For my absence, I do not apologize. Instead, I humbly offer you the following stuff & nonsense masquerading as insight & nonsense. May I now present the following blatherskite in numerical list form:

1. As is increasingly popular custom, I've cultivated a bit of a beard in the nearly three months we've been apart. Some of you may accuse me of developing this facial growth for no other reason than to fit in with the other young professional Brooklynites on the F, G and L trains. Untrue, at best. But I'll let you all in on my real motive: I've been trying to look as much like Late '80s Greg Evigan as possible. Pictured below, apparently at one time he was "Prime Time's Sexiest Dad" (not pictured is the issue of Playgirl that featured the other of two dads with the tagline "Paul Reiser: Prime Time's Most Neurotic Jew"). I gotta tell you, I truly miss the days when a sleeveless denim vest indicated hotness. Anyway, I resisted at first, but the beard's really been growing on me. Ha! Sorry. Really, sorry.

2. They tell me the Governor of Illinois something and something and hair joke and something. You may have heard about it.

I must admit, I fell for Blagojevich's Thelma and Louise-style, blaze-of-glory media tour. The sympathy plea worked on me. I kept picturing Ray Liotta playing him in an original Showtime picture in late 2010, and I thought I'd get in prematurely. I can't say for certain whether I'm enjoying this corruption episode in an ironic T-shirt kind of way or whether it comes with the newsroom-style jaded cynicism territory, but in the end I just loved how he veered into the skid and said "Fuck it." You never see someone with these kind of stones any more. "Fuck me? No, fuck you!" And that was just his wife! Also, gotta love the fact that now four of the last seven Illinois governors have been indicted, to go with nearly 30 alderman over the past three and a half decades. It's a fucking miracle Obama could actually win a general election for the presidency having grown to maturity in the gears of Illinois politics.

But, really, how is what Blagojevich did -- pay for play, essentially -- any different than what representatives and lobbyists do on a daily basis? He wanted money in exchange for a promise to do something, no? Is this not business as usual for Congress, the White House and other federal agencies? Have we not legalized bribery in Washington? Corporations, labor organizations, interest groups and others spent $3.3 billion on lobbying last year. That kind of fuck-you money buys a whole lot more than a Senate seat -- it buys the law. Take the bailout: The $350 billion doled out as part of the first tranche of TARP money has largely gone to companies that fill campaign coffers every two years. The recipients of these really expensive food stamps dished out $77 million on lobbying last year and another $37 million on federal campaign contributions (with the top government financial committee overseers getting $5 million of that). If you're doing the math at home, that $114 million Nigerian scam netted them more than $300 billion on the return...and that's the best investment they've made in years.

3. If your sense of humo(u)r is anything like mine, you'll also declare this Billy Mays parody to be one of the funniest videos on the Interweb. I can't even begin to count how many times I laughed out loud. Okay, four. Brilliant shit, that.

4. Leave it to the Democrats to fuck it all up already. Leave it to the Democrats to take a wildly popular and iconic president, a 77-seat majority in the House and a 15-seat majority in the Senate and throw away all their political capital in the span of a mere fortnight. About 75 percent of the country, Gallup says, wants swift government action in the form of a stimulus package. But only 38 percent of the total likes this $900-billion spending iteration. In other words, we're with you in spirit, but on the details, you guys are like Swim, Swami, Slippy...Samsonite (i.e. "way off!").

Of course people are gonna go apeshit when Pelosi puts on her Cesar Romero-as-Joker costume and defends condoms as stimulus (though I love the irony of a debate that has "contraceptives" and "stimulating" in the same sentence). Of course people are gonna go bananas when they read about $200 million for new sod on the National Mall, especially when we can track down George Toma to do it for much less. Of course people are gonna be apoplectic when they read about $248 million for furniture at Homeland Security or $400 million for STD prevention, or $1 billion for the 2010 Census.

These may be worthwhile endeavors, but why include them in a bill that Republicans are itching to blow up and castigate as pork-laden wasteful liberal spending. Why fall into that trap? Note to morons: Infrastructure (including alternative energy), unemployment, health care, a nod to business tax cuts, end of story, $500 billion and get the fuck out of there. Do I have to do everything around here? Sheesh.

5. Michael Phelps received his three-month suspension last night, a harsh, harsh buzz for a dude who's only crime was being a really famous dude photographed doing something common by a guy with a camera phone. Said the swimming overlords: "This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated, but we decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and a hero."

So let me get this straight: He's allowed to be photographed clearly inebriated in a Vegas strip club with his hand on a stripper/hooker's arse, and that's okay, that's role model material. But a bong is out of the question? Drink and fornicate with cheap women, kiddos, just don't touch the pot because it's bad for your lung capacity and it'll de-motivate you and...oh, wait. Yeah, 14 gold medals. Eat that, USA Swimming. He doesn't have a drug problem, and if anything, he should now be considered a role model for drug reform.

Phelps should have gone all Blagojevich on this one -- screw apologies, come out and say, "So what? Yeah I got high, and you know what, so do you. I'm Superman. So what? I did something everyone does. There's a show called Weeds that's wildly popular, for chrissakes. The last president did blow off the Oval Office desk when his dad was in office. So get down off the high horse and go shit in your hat." The end needs work, yeah. But suspension and the loss of a sponsor? Baffling. If anything, he should be suspended by the US Orthodonture Board for being a bad role model for kids with bad teeth. But this? Just baffling.

That's all the time we have. Tune in next time when we'll tackle Joe Torre's hypocrisy, Bernie Madoff's awesomeness, Etta James' cell block mentality, my Colin Farrell-esque trip to Bruges, and we'll also examine who has the stronger pancreas: Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Patrick Swayze. So long for now, sports fans.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Own Dewey Defeats Truman?

Punditrybedamned, there's only one undeniable truth about this year's Election Night soiree: Nearly half of the American electorate will be wickedly pissed off when they climb into bed tomorrow night. A much smaller yet unquestionably sizeable segment of the American electorate will be wickedly pissed on when they climb into bed tomorrow night, if Craigslist personals and a cursory googling of the term "kinky watersports" is any indication. I'm betting a whole bushel of closet-creepy Republicans will fall into both camps.

A particularly cautious brand of optimism pervades much of the air left of center, but there's literally no reason to be too worried about this one. When it comes down to it, Barack Obama has a much better shot of winning 370 electoral votes than John McCain does of winning the requisite 270 it takes to ascend to the highest office in these United States. Ultimately my proprietary projection analysis shows Senator Obamuhhhh with a relative landslide victory of 322-216 -- there was no October surprise, there will be no last-minute undecided shift and the only Bradley Effect will be the ripples on Dollar Bill's chin if the former senator happens to see airtime on a cable news channel.

The grossly incompetent McCain campaign and its affiliated Republican attack machine tried to throw everything they had at "that one." But they learned what the reigning first family of Democratic politics learned in the primary: Nothing sticks to Obama -- he's more Teflon than John Gotti and Slick Willie combined.

Obama has no experience. Obama's a secret Muslim. Obama's an Arab. Obama's an out-of-touch elitist. Obama's reverend is an anti-American racist. Obama's top donor is a corrupt convict. Obama pals around with domestic terrorists like Bill Ayers. Obama pals around with Palestinian terrorists like Rashid Khalidi. Obama's too radical for mainstream America. Obama wants to spread your wealth. Obama's a Socialist. Obama's a Marxist. Obama wasn't born in this country. Obama works with ACORN. Obama hasn't released his full medical records. Obama wants reparations. Obama wants to bankrupt the coal industry. Obama's got the media in his pocket.

I half-expect to see "Obama Uses Trig Palin As Dildo To Rape Poor Innocent Bristol, Laughs About It" on the Drudge Report tomorrow morning.

But as the negative attacks continue, the junior senator from Illinois' lead keeps widening. Is the economy bad enough that the majority of Americans want anybody but a Republican in the Oval Office? That's part of it, sure. People are finally realizing that the most accurate and honest political statement on the campaign trail came from Obama during the tough primary at a fundraiser in San Francisco when he said: "So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." The media ate it up as ratings and circulation fodder, and Obama's opponents seized on this perceived gaffe that'd surely lose him some key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Let's back up and take that quote in context. Here's the lead-in that was conveniently clipped from the front of the money shot above: "But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not."

That quotation makes much more sense now, no? And, to his immense credit, Obama's done just what he said in my italicized excerpt. The Democrat's campaign has surely made some missteps, but this has been his crowning achievement, what's made him so successful -- his mix of the ground game and passing game has no doubt persuaded working-class and middle-class folks that it's time to vote with the wallet and family budget rather than the guns and religion. Americans by and large don't want "Country First." No, it's "My Family First," and Obama has managed to convince people he has the capacity to let them dream again, and dream bigger.

But even more so than that, and more than the mandate for Change we'll see declared in Grant Park tomorrow night, the symbol of Obama has more support than the symbol of McCain. Never before in my lifetime has an election held up two diametrically opposed archetypes for the electorate to back: McCain represents Old America, mostly baby boomers and their surviving parents who think America has been the world's only dominant superpower and will forever be; Obama represents the New School, mostly young professionals and educated elites who understand we live in a world in which America will be a big part of an increasingly intricate global network. McCain's supporters think we're entitled to "good-paying American jobs," whereas Obama's supporters realize more and more countries are graduating from the kid's table to the adults' dinner. Obama's supporters understand that every move we make impacts the rest of the world, whereas McCain's supporters just don't particularly give a shit. America, fuck yeah.

The two archetypes over the past year have been asking people to line up behind them. Even if you don't fit the mold exactly, the time to officially choose a side is tomorrow. And what we've seen, even with the introduction of Sarah Palin, is that the Us Vs. Them war we expected never materialized at the level we witnessed in 2004. No, the Us Vs. Them we saw this time was more economic and geopolitical in nature, and it looks like a majority of the American people find Obama's vision if the world to be more palatable. At some point we must realize that the America's long era of world dominance is over, but that we'll still be okay in the end if we come to terms with this reality. We must change our worldview, not just our domestic leaders. That point has come. And that's the mandate for Change.

After nearly two years of the most expensive and perhaps emotional campaign in history, I can't wait for this to end tomorrow night, and by all accounts it should end positively. So, in advance, I'm sorry that almost half the country will feel like they've been hosed tomorrow night. I'm just glad that this time, it's the other half.

(Oh, and if McCain somehow pulls off the impossible...I was jus' keeeeding!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Return: I've Got a Golden Ticket

A safe estimate would put the number of ticket requests for the upcoming Phish reunion at 250,000, all vying for maybe 15,000 pre-sale ducats for the three-night return engagement at the Hampton Coliseum. Somehow, some way, by the grace of the gods, my face-value dream hath come wondrously wet.

Until the unlikely confirmation came through earlier this evening, I could barely muster the excitement for the reunion I'd normally expect from my compulsive self. It's difficult for me to get too tangibly amped for a wedding when the engagement news begins to circulate. Unless there's a quasi-eloping situation in the offing, the nuptials generally loom way too far into the future to garner that genuine feeling of tingling anticipation. Eventually that excitement materializes, but at first, the natural reaction is something like "Oh, shit, well, that'll be cool. Open bar."

Similarly, despite it's obvious awesomeness on every level, it's been difficult for me to get too tangibly geeked for this Phish reunion, nearly five years in the making. I know what lays in wait, but the early-March run won't pop up on the "awesome things to do this weekend" horizon for another five months. For now, it's just another future weekend event without an open bar.

Make no mistake, hysteria is out there. Most of the popular rock band Phish's fans are overtly and rightly freaking the fuck out about the return of the subjectively greatest rock and roll band of our lifetimes. I know I will be -- and this day started me down that path -- but I'm still not entirely there yet. I want these shows here now. I don't want to wait through pumpkins and Macy's-sponsored parades. I don't want to wait through Jesus-atop-Santa chickenfights and Time Square confetti. I don't want to wait for that Punxsutawny rodent to decide whether or not we'll be freezing our wintry nips off for three more fortnights. I want a Phish show now. Hey, Daddy, I want a Phish show. I want you to get me a Phish show right away!

At this juncture it's a far-off concept. A post-hiatus, post-breakup Phish show is like an interstate Denny's when you're at your hungriest -- you know it's coming, but it ain't quite here yet. I can visualize the lots and fans and lights and grins, but it's hard to imagine the Hampton house lights coming down and the smoke going up. I can recollect all the notes and chords and songs and sets I've heard before, but it's hard to imagine the sound of those four brilliant dorks collaborating on a public stage again. I can remember the scent of the patchouli and reefer and...ahhh, shit, sorry, I just gagged a bit from the imaginary but vicious stench of patchouli -- 'tis enough to permanently damage the olfactory receptors and drive a man to assault and/or battery.

There's been nothing more enjoyable in this world than a well-executed Phish show (that hyphenated modifier clearly excludes the no joy in mudville called Coventry). From the "Here we go" at the start of the road trip to the "Holy fuck, what a day" at the end, there's nowhere I'd rather be on March 6th than in Virginia (regardless of whether they go Bradley Effect on us in November). If I didn't get lucky tonight, who knows what I'd be spouting off on this here rag. All I know is that when it comes down to it, I wouldn't miss the release after almost five years of tension. I couldn't. I wouldn't miss the adrenaline rush in between the PA's last song and the band's first note. I couldn't. I wouldn't miss the ability to high-five a stranger without impunity. I couldn't. I wouldn't miss the Curtain With exorcism opener. I couldn't.

But right now, I'm just a guy, like many of you (and sorry for the definitive gender use, but you are likely guys due to the sausage festiness of Phish shows), dealing with a stressful job and a suddenly Trans-Atlantic relationship trying to make it through the week just to watch a football game. The excitement will build, but tonight, tonight I'm in a place I'd never thought I'd be, the stoic lifelong fan with an e-mail confirmation and a whole lot of time before it gets real. Oh, but when it gets real, that's boogie time. That's the goods.

Good luck with The Ticket Master, my friends. I'll see youse all there.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen...The Phish

It's on. It's very much a go. The Phish from Vermont. The popular rock band Phish returns. And they come bearing a cool little video and six months full of butterflies. Welcome back, losers.
For now head on over to our good friends over at Hidden Track for all the latest...I'll have some thoughts in a bit.