Monthly Archives: June 2006

My Story on World Cup Supporters in Thailand

English World Cup Supporter

I have a story in today’s IHT/ThaiDay about international World Cup supporters here in Bangkok. I tracked down some Germans (easy), some English (also easy), an Italian (not so easy), and an Argentine (quite difficult). I tried to capture these fans’ hopes for what their squads might accomplish over the coming days. A snip from a part that I quite enjoy:

If Germany wins the title on July 9, will the Germans celebrate in any special manner? A Bei Otto patron named Klaus pipes up, chuckling. “If Germany wins, we will sit here and drink beer like Germans,” he says. “We will not dance in the street. We are not Dutch.”

US Soccer: Postmortem Analsysis

US Soccer: A Postmortem

A few of you have asked me to weigh in on the US national soccer team’s dismal performance at the World Cup. The American squad, it pains me to note, lost two games, tied one, scored only two goals (one of which was an own-goal gifted to them by the Italians), and generally stunk up the joint. In my estimation, they were among the five or six worst teams in the tournament. This after making the quarterfinals in 2002.

What went wrong?

Read this excellent post on the New York Times’s World Cup blog to find out. I agree with nearly everything here, except that in assigning blame for the US team’s dismal showing, I’d argue it had more to do with the quality of the American players in relation to our opponents than it did with US coach Bruce Arena’s tactics or the dubious penalty against Ghana that sent us crashing out.

90% of the US team’s problems involve where the players ply their trade: I love the idea of the MLS, but it ain’t doing our national team any favors. It simply isn’t good enough a league; our players aren’t improving by playing in it. When Landon Donovan, supposedly the best American talent, chooses to stay at home rather than push himself and play in Europe, then we’re in trouble.

There’s an amazingly ridiculous idea spreading through the Web at this moment. It holds that the US team’s demise can be attributed to the sport’s “suburban” roots in America — that American footballers aren’t physically tough enough to play against international competition.

In a recent New Yorker column (not online), the normally excellent Jeffrey Toobin claims that the US team last to the Czechs due to “a lack of mettle.” Completely false. We lost to them because they were better than us. Way better. More skilled, not stronger or meaner. See Zachary Roth’s scintillating takedown of Toobin’s thesis on the wonderfully informative and entertaining TNR World Cup Blog. I’m saddened to see the likes of Jason Kottke, one of my favorite bloggers, echoing this simplistic and wrong-headed sentiment. He quotes David at Hello Typepad as saying that what we need in America is better athletes playing soccer.

I agree, but his suggestion that Terrell Owens would make a good striker is simply absurd. T.O. weighs (at least) 226 pounds! Yes, he’s fast, but if there were a physical advantage to being that large and muscular — heavier than any international outfield player in the history of the beautiful game, as far as I am aware — don’t you think that would have happened by now? (I will admit that I have, in the past, argued that Allen Iverson would make a world-class goalkeeper, however.)

[Deep breaths, Newley. Deep breaths.]

Some other links you should know about:

— Yes, the US national team player Clint Dempsey — aka “Deuce” — is a rapper.

— And also: indeed, Jurgen Klinsmann may be the next US coach.

— Don’t miss the NYT’s World Cup blog on the inane ABC and ESPN US soccer broadcasters.

— Dave Eggers’s hilarious essay about soccer in America, which appeared in The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup, has been posted on Slate. Read it. The best part comes at the end:

But until we do win the Cup—and we have no chance this particular time around, being tossed into the Group of Death, which will consume us quickly and utterly—soccer will receive only the grudging acknowledgement of the general populace. Then again, do we really want—or can we even conceive of—an America where soccer enjoys wide popularity or even respect? If you were soccer, the sport of kings, would you want the adulation of a people who elected Bush and Cheney, not once but twice? You would not.

— Austin Kelly has an interesting World Cup blog, though I find his argument that diving is good for football less than compelling.

— Later today: Germany takes on Argentina in the quarterfinals — just might be the match of the tournament. If you don’t watch this game, you’re dead to me.

That is all.

Back in Bangkok

So. I’m back in Bangkok. SC was fun. DC was great. The wedding on Cape Cod was fantastic. And now I’m back home in the Kingdom. Wow — that was a whirlwind two weeks in Amurica, that much is certain.

A few pics for your viewing pleasure. A and I watched England beat Ecuador 1-0 last night. My heart wept for Ecuador. But England were the better team. You have to hand it to Becks. He may be a metrosexual (or would that be machosexual?) with frosted hair but when push comes to shove, he can step up and blast a free kick under circumstances that would make lesser men wilt.

Anyway, we took in the game with about 1,000 fellow Thai and English supporters; it was broadcast on a big screen at Central World Plaza in downtown Bangkok. Here’s a pic; not the greatest of images, but still.

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A monsoon rain battered us during the last 20 minutes of the game and the whole place flooded, lending a suitably manic atmosphere to the end of a manic match (for those of us — and by that I mean, in sun total, me — rooting for Ecuador).

And, finally, apropos of nothing: one more pic of Sammie, my family’s new seven-month-old golden retriever puppy. Is he not a good looking fellow, even when he’s pouting?

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NK: Gassin’ up a Taep’o-dong 2

License to Il

With the North Koreans preparing to test launch a ballistic missile (the Taep’o-dong 2), I thought this would be a good time to re-visit the bizarre NK images I linked to a few days back — see them again for the first time with English captions.

Also, I came across the following image. If you ever wanted a stark visual representation that illustrates the fact that totalitarianism/centrally-planned economics doesn’t work and democracy/free-market capitalism does, check this out — South Korea is lit up like a Christmas tree at night while their crazy cousins to the north are completely blacked out. Perhaps the North Korean government — which I heard someone refer to recently as less a nation than a cult — is saving up for rocket fuel by cutting back on electricity? Let’s hope not.

North Korea at Night

Oh, and one more thing: to you optimists who think this preparing-a-rocket-to-launch is just the North Koreans grandstanding to gain attention, I’d like to point out that it’s extremely difficult to remove fuel from rockets once they’ve been gassed up. Just a little something to ponder.

Man, North Korea. Would someone please convince the Halliburton muckety-mucks that they could practically print money if they snapped up some sweet no-bid contracts to rebuid the country if we would only just invade already? (No pun intended.)

“Lungs Aren’t Bags”

Lungs

The one and only Rob “Cockeyed” Cockham gives us “Things I Figured Out.” I particularly like this one:

Lungs aren’t bags.

Lungs are where oxygen is introduced into your bloodstream. They hold air, but they aren’t just empty pink sacks.

Lungs are packed full of a complex system of tunnels and pockets, so that every wisp of air is tantalizingly close to blood-engorged capillaries. This plaza of exchange isn’t a big, open stadium, it is a tight system of itty bitty tunnels that lead to 600 million tiny rooms. If you cut open a lung, it isn’t empty inside like a potato-chip sack, it is full of membranes, like a sponge.

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