Tag Archives: World Cup

Hope Solo, Groundhog Day and Back to Reality

Well, the USA had Hope — but not enough goals. Even though the USA came up short in its bid to win the World Cup, it was an exciting game that kept me and the Prez glued to the TV (admittedly in different cities) Sunday afternoon. And congrats to the team from Japan. They lifted the spirits of an entire country — and the bar for women’s soccer at any level.

So now it’s back to the reality of the debt fiasco Inside the Beltway. And it strikes me that we are watching a political version of the Bill Murray flick Groundhog Day. Here’s from Wikipedia:

Murray plays Phil Connors, an egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during a hated assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself repeating the same day over and over again. After indulging in hedonism and numerous suicide attempts, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities.

Hmm. Every day now we hear about solutions ranging from plans A to Z — but with very few specifics for measures that apparently with luck maybe will cut spending from anywhere from $1.5 to $4 trillion. Maybe the conservatives and liberals in Congress should select five from each side and let them fire penalty kicks at the Prez and Eric Cantor. Winner take all! Hey, no worse an idea than some that are being floated on the weekend talk shows where the DC chattering class meet every Sunday.

Here’s an interesting NYT article, “Across the Nation, Budget Talks Stir Pessimism“:

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday morning, President Obama insisted that he completely understood how the American people — a phrase he mentioned more than two dozen times — felt about the slow pace of negotiations over the debt ceiling.

“For the general public — I’ve said this before, but I just want to reiterate — this is not some abstract issue,” the president said in a news conference at the White House, adding that he knew that the American people “expect more.”

“They expect,” he said, “that we actually try to solve this problem.”

But, as Yoda once said, there is a profound difference between try and do. And a quick, informal selection of voices from across the country over the weekend found both pessimism and cynicism about the state of negotiations in Washington, resignation about the partisan jousting and more confusion than conniption about what exactly will happen if the president and his Republican opponents cannot make a deal to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2.

And neither side, they say, looks good.

“They’re all boneheads,” said Steve Ruzika, 55, an entrepreneur from Boca Raton, Fla., who added that while he is politically conservative, he is fed up with both ends of the political spectrum.

“This has been brewing for a long time,” Mr. Ruzika said. “They should have solved it before now.”

And you groaned when I suggested penalty kicks?

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I Read the News Today, Oh, Boy

Some days it would be great to get up at 3 a.m., fire up the computer, and sit back with a pot of strong coffee while scanning what might be labeled as good news. But, alas, for this pajama-clad citizen journalist, the early a.m. is filled with stories that would make a sane person head back and crawl under the bed if not the covers: the continuing debt debacle Inside the Beltway, wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Carmaggeddon in Los Angeles, Mad Dog still sitting pretty in Libya, and so on. Next thing you know we’ll find out that a national news organization is tapping our phones.

Then there is the chilling story about Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old boy who was abducted and murdered when he got lost on his first solo trip walking home from a summer camp in Brooklyn. If you’re a parent, know someone who has children, or plan on having children, this is the nightmare that gets you up and keeps you up long before 3 a.m.

So, since we are sliding head first into another summer weekend, I figured I search for some good news. Here goes.

  • Mila Kunis. Marine Sgt. Scott Moore, stationed in Afghanistan, posted a video on YouTube inviting Mila to attend a Marine Corps Ball in North Carolina in November. And she said yes. Whoo-hoo. OK. She’s waffling a bit now, suggesting that film scheduling conflicts might prevent her from going. But it’s a feel-good story and here’s hoping she goes. And let’s see. Dear Pippa –oops, I digress.
  • Christian Lopez. Christian was in the right place at the right time, coming out of a Rugby scrum in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium holding the ball that Derek Jeter knocked out of the park for his 3,000th hit. Then Christian did something that struck at the heart of all the Wall Street Titans of Commerce: He gave the ball to Jeter without trying to profit from it — even though some opine that the ball would be worth $100,000 or so if the tried to sell it. Well the Yankees rewarded his good deed by giving him some free tickets and other stuff — but get this, he immediately was hit with a $14,000 tax bill. Note to the Prez and Mitch: This is why people in the real world are pissed off. I digress again. But good news. Several companies have stepped up and offered to pay the tax bill as well as give him $50,000 or so from various promotions. I’m convinced Tim Geithner would have kept the ball.
  • USA women’s soccer team. This is the best good news story of the summer. The USA women’s team plays Japan on Sunday for the World Cup. And as Sally Jenkins opined in WaPo after their semifinal win over France, “Bulletin to the spray-on tan crowd: Beat it. The big girls are here.” And for those of us here in the USA, unlike with the deficit, spending and budget talks, at least with the women’s soccer team we’ll always have Hope. Just sayin’.

Have an enjoyable weekend — with nothing but good news.

Prez on Debt Limit: “Don’t Call My Bluff”

Wow. Things are starting to get nasty Inside the Beltway as the Prez and members of Congress play kick the can with the nation’s debt limit and government spending. The daily White House meetings should be televised. Great reality TV.

In yesterday’s episode, the Prez reportedly said several times “enough is enough” and then abruptly walked out of the meeting. Go figure.

Here’s from a story on The Huffington Post, “Obama Warns Cantor ‘Don’t Call My Bluff’ As Debt Talks Stall“:

Lawmakers and the White House had what nearly every party is describing as a “tough” and “testy” meeting on the debt ceiling Wednesday afternoon, culminating in a stormy exchange between President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

It was the fifth straight day of talks, but the first in which attendees, speaking on background, were willing to admit that steps were taken backwards. According to multiple sources, disagreements surfaced early, in the middle and at the end of the nearly two-hour talks. At issue was Cantor’s repeated push to do a short-term resolution and Obama’s insistence that he would not accept one.

“Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people on this,” the president said, according to both Cantor and another attendee. “This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political positioning, and protecting their base, than in resolving real problems.”

Cantor, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said that the president “abruptly” walked off after offering his scolding.

“I know why he lost his temper. He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated,” the Virginia Republican said.

Democratic officials had a different interpretation. “The meeting ended with Cantor being dressed down while sitting in silence,” one official said in an email. “[The president] said Cantor could not have it both ways of insisting on dollar-for-dollar and still not being open to revenues.”

And at the same time, there appears that some are giving serious consideration to Mitch McConnell’s wet dream to solve the debt issue. As best I can tell, he wants to give the Prez the authority (without Republicans having to vote on it) to hike the debt ceiling — with the subsequent hope and prayer that there will be spending cuts implemented in three stages.

For once I agree with the editors at WaPo who opine this morning “McConnell’s escape hatch: The best Washington can do?“:

The McConnell plan offers political cover for cowardice and irresponsibility. If it is the best Washington can do, it is better than nothing. But it’s not much of an advertisement for what Washington can do.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the USA women’s soccer team advanced to the finals of the World Cup on Sunday with a thrilling victory over France. Here’s a great report from Sally Jenkins in WaPo, “U.S. women’s soccer team takes joy in forging its own identity“:

Pardon any typos; they’re the result of sprains from doing an Abby Wambach slide across the living room floor after watching the U.S. women’s soccer team make the World Cup final. The American women have at last forged their own identity, those gorgeous toughies, with their bulging shoulders and their sweat-plastered hair and their habit of storming and screaming their way out of trouble.

Bulletin to the spray-on tan crowd: Beat it. The big girls are here.

Just a thought here but worth considering.

Perhaps the Prez, Eric Cantor and the others trying to figure what’s on or off the table these days are getting testy because they can’t watch the live broadcasts of the USA women’s team and the World Cup matches.

Let’s hope they aren’t meeting about the deficit during the final on Sunday. Things could get really dicey in the West Wing.

Hope Solo, Women’s Soccer and Winning the World Cup

OK. Since Mitch McConnell has entered the debt ceiling fray (note to all Americans: we’re sunk), I’m going to spend a good portion of my day fretting about other matters. And while both sides Inside the Beltway continue to kick the can on spending, jobs and so on, I’m going to keep my eyes on some real footballers: the U.S. women’s soccer team.

They play France today at noon in the semifinals of the World Cup. Japan takes the pitch against Sweden immediately following. And as best I can tell both matches will be on ESPN.

I enjoy watching soccer, and the USA victory over Brazil Sunday should kind of blow out of the water the claim that soccer doesn’t have enough action or excitement to suit American sports fans. C’mon. The USA tied the score with about two seconds left — and then won in a shootout. Compared to that, baseball’s All-Star Game was an exercise in watching paint dry.

And even if you prefer to watch snooker or women’s beach volleyball, how can you not cheer for the USA goalie, Hope Solo? Here’s from the NYT, “U.S. Goalkeeper Made Quite a Comeback of Her Own“:

They would joke about it later, but the moment grew too chaotic for Hope Solo. She had to get away. This time, she left on her own, not at the insistence of others.

The Women’s World Cup quarterfinals had reached penalty kicks Sunday after a stunning overtime comeback by the United States against Brazil. In a team huddle, forward Abby Wambach screamed at her teammates to relax.

“Look who’s talking,” midfielder Carli Lloyd said, according to Solo, and the other players laughed edgily. Who could calm down with someone yelling at them?

A few players started punching Solo, the goalkeeper. These were fists of encouragement, meant to rouse and motivate her. But Solo felt her emotions rising when she needed to feel calm. So she walked away, strolled to the other side of the field in Dresden and leaned on the advertising boards.

“We couldn’t find her,” Christie Rampone, the team captain, said.

Solo looked into the stands and found her mother, brother and sister. She spotted her aunt and uncle. She thought briefly about the 2007 World Cup, about how she wanted to enjoy this moment because that other moment had been so unpleasant.

Her father had died shortly before that World Cup. He had been Solo’s biggest supporter and a bigger enigma, a man who lived in a tent, homeless, who kept changing his name and died before everything could be explained.

When the 2007 World Cup started, Solo was still grieving. Then she was benched by Coach Greg Ryan for a semifinal match against Brazil. The United States lost, 4-0, with Briana Scurry in goal. Afterward, Solo said that she could have saved the shots that ended up in the net. Her words scattered beyond their aim.

Solo’s teammates took her remarks as a criticism of Scurry, not just Ryan. She was banished from the third-place game and the team flight home from China, ostracized by the women who had played with her and been her friends.

So on Sunday, as she awaited the penalty-kick shootout, Solo took in the crowd. She let the noise wash over her. The United States had been a player down for the final 25 minutes of regulation and all 30 minutes of overtime but kept its resolve and tied the score. And now Solo felt a kind of release. If others were tense, she was relaxed.

“I just wanted to enjoy this moment because in 2007, I wasn’t able to do that,” she said. “I was at peace, clear-headed, right where I needed to be.”

When Daiane, the third Brazilian shooter, set up for her penalty kick, Solo made her wait. She moved unhurriedly in the goal mouth, stalling, trying to spot something that would betray Daiane’s intent. Finally, she did. The way Daiane ran toward the ball, the arc of her approach, was the giveaway. She was behind the ball and her hips opened, and the ball could go in only one direction. Solo dived to her right and punched the ball away, and the Americans soon advanced to the semifinals to face France here Wednesday.

I know that many who read these posts are at work, busily monitoring Facebook and Twitter and pulling recipes from the Food Network. But if you have the opportunity to watch some or all of the matches, go for it. Your boss won’t notice. Trust me on that.

And yeah, I know. While the women are world-class athletes no matter how you slice it, the critique is that this still doesn’t quite add up to the men’s game. Well, my perspective is that there is a difference. The USA women, unlike the men, have a history of finishing matches that really mean something at least one goal ahead.

Just sayin’.

The World Cup and Instant Replays

Well, I’ll admit it. I haven’t been doing much the past few days. OK. Make that past few weeks. Since my feet have been off the concrete early a.m., I’ve managed more and more to plant my buttocks firmly in the easy chair by mid-day. And then as far as subsequent real-world activities go, to quote the philosopher Porky Pig: “That’s all folks.” Yet I have an excuse. I enjoy watching the World Cup matches — even with the U.S. now kaput.

And I guess there are important matters that I should be addressing from my post as a pajama-clad citizen journalist. For instance:

  • Confirmation hearings for SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan began yesterday. And this is great theater, with the Republicans huffing and puffing, but my sense is that it is going to be kind of ho-hum. Just sayin’.
  • And Paul Krugman, writing in the NYT, is signaling the possibility of a third depression. Let’s hope he’s wrong. That he’s just being a Gloomy Gus.

Oh well.

Since I can’t get worked up enough to lift my vuvuzela and give a toot about the next justice of the Supreme Court or a coming depression, I guess I’ll  opine about something that has been dominating my little world lately: the use — or not — of instant replays in World Cup matches.

I expect that instant replays are inevitable.

Here’s from George Vecsey, writing in the NYT, “An Obvious Case for Instant Replay“:

Instant replay arrived in world soccer on Sunday. It became absolutely essential when the field officials totally missed the shot from England’s Frank Lampard that hit the crossbar and bounced close to two feet inside the goal.

The referee and the linesman were fully 25 yards away, but television cameras instantly told everybody around the world that the ball had gone into the goal and that England should have tied the score 38 minutes into the first half of its Round of 16 match.

The blown call did not change history, because Germany pummeled England, 4-1. But the glaring mistake was a reminder that soccer goals — more than baseball home runs or football touchdowns or even hockey goals — are too precious to be squandered. Those three sports now have some version of instant replay in North America. It’s time for soccer, too — at least where television and big bucks are present. And surely by the World Cup, next time, in 2014, in Brazil.

And FIFA President Sepp Blatter is quoted in the NYT this morning as saying that there would be a renewed discussion about “goal-line technology.”

That to me makes sense — have a system in place to sort out the disputes about goals.

But I hope that football — as the world knows it — doesn’t become like American football. American football games now take forever — with just about every decision on the field being reviewed via video replay. The result: far more TV timeouts than anything even closely resembling real action.

One of the reasons I like watching soccer is that there are few interruptions — save the flopping of  some of the players and the amazing amount of time it takes to substitute a player, especially at the end of the game when your team is behind. Oops. I digress.

So I expect we’ll see instant replays at the next World Cup in four years.

And let’s hope FIFA can do that without destroying the essence of the game.

That should be the goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal.

The World Cup and World-Class Excuses

I’ll admit it. I enjoy watching the World Cup. So I have a decision to make this morning. Should I stay home hugging the easy chair and watch the U.S. play Slovenia? Or, on an absolutely perfect morning here in NE Ohio, should I venture into the real world for a long bike ride? Well, since I can’t run these days, I’ll opt for hitting the trail on the two-wheeler. Hey, it beats the elliptical trainer.

Still,  I’ll be rooting remotely for the U.S. team in a match that really is important if we want to advance beyond the first round. Saying that, if the U.S. team loses, there is no point in trying to come up with an excuse. Spain has a lock on that title.

Here’s the back-story.

Spain, one of the favorites in the tournament and one of the best teams in the world for the past few years, got its lunch eaten Wednesday by Switzerland. The reason? Well, the fingers are pointing at the goalie’s girlfriend.

Here’s from a story on The Huffington Post, “Sara Carbonero, Iker Casillas Girlfriend, Blamed for Spain World Cup Loss.”

Sara Carbonero, a beautiful sideline reporter and girlfriend of Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, is being blamed by some fans for Spain’s shocking World Cup loss to Switzerland on Wednesday.

The Guardian reports that the gorgeous sportscaster is accused of distracting her boyfriend by being so close to the field before and during the crucial match. Casillas allowed the game’s only goal, and Spanish fans are worried that Carbonero could be to blame.

Woot. An excuse doesn’t get any better than that.

But it appears that Carbonero isn’t willing to play along and unlike most of her media counterparts actually had the balls to ask a tough question in an interview she conducted after the match. Again, here’s from the article as reported on The Huffington Post:

After the game, Carbonero interviewed her boyfriend and asked him about the team’s unexpectedly lousy performance. On live TV, she asked her lover, “How did you muck this up?”

Ouch. “How did you muck this up?”

And that’s essential the question members of Congress kept asking BP CEO Tony Hayward yesterday at another hearing about the oil disaster in the Gulf.

Too bad Hayward didn’t have either a good explanation — or a similar world-class excuse.