seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Sports

Thoughts on sports and games

FIFA Rules

I think FIFA ruled justly in the matter of Zidane and Materazzi. Zidane's penalty was slightly more harsh than Materazzi's in both games suspended and the fine. I think this is a good decision and rightly distributes the penalty among those responsible. Due to his retirement, Zidane will be serving his game suspension with community service.

This is the best ending we could have expected from this sad situation.

Progress!

Several weeks ago, I first attempted a big hill on the south side of town. It was the first time I ever felt sick while riding. This is a steep hill - it starts immediately after a sharp turn, so you have to start at a near dead stop.

Today, I made it up with getting off my bike. I had to do a couple track stands - where I stopped pedaling and balanced briefly to allow my legs to breathe. It hurt. It hurt alot. Check out the map and stare at mile 6 in the altitude profile on the bottom.

After finishing the worst hill, I had to descend and climb two additional big hills before finishing the ride home. I hope to greatly increase my climbing skills while out here so I can laugh at the Minnesota hills upon my return.

The last hill descends so rapidly, I was traveling over 40mph when I stole a glance at the computer before fixing my eyes back to the road - my grip a little tighter on the handlebar. Yikes.

This is a great victory after far too many flat tires. 5 or 6 flats in the last 200 miles. Frustrating. Salem is full of a bunch of bums that use the roadways as a glass recycling facility. However, I have learned about Mr. Tuffy skins and finally installed them. I hope to have far fewer flats and start enjoying the rides again.

Regarding the Tour de France, it has been great! I don't know what happened today, I'm just catching up now on the DVR but I am fully rooting for Landis on the Phonak team. Yet another American with a shot at the Yellow jersey on the podium. I love it!

Update: Wow. Landis bonked. I still believe he has a chance. But he has lost so much time, I wonder. At least it is exciting!

Go Get 'Em

Good luck to Kimmi, Walchka, and everyone else competing in the Minneapolis Lifetime Fitness triathlon on Saturday.

Bless the Net

I was hoping someone would do it. Sure enough, someone did. Check out the flopping stats which show that although Italy did in fact dive more than any other team, France appears to have been a leader in complaining to the ref.

On a tech podcast today, I heard that a FIFA doctor reported more than 50% of the times that the medical crew was summoned to the field, it was for nothing.

Ha!

I have been singing praises to the OLN Tour de France commentators as my favorite commentators in any sport ever. They consistently have to talk through 2-4 hours of biking and always keep it interesting. Now this:

Paul Sherwin: There is an investigation into that incident, in fact, because they believe it was derived from a racist remark made against Zidane.

Phil Liggett: Ah, well there's always two sides to the tale, as the journalists know.

This was the conversation after they talked about the loud welcome Zidane got when he returned to France.

Update: I just found an article, written a week ago, that elegantly argues my point of view regarding the sad state of futbol. End the diving. Or create style points I guess. One or the other.

Another Update: More details emerge from this story suggesting that lip readers say Materazzi called Zizou the son of a terrorist whore. Materazzi's defense is absurd -saying he is not cultured enough to know what an Islamic terrorist is. The article has other details worth reading if you haven't totally lost interest in this story.

Heat of a Moment

It's the mid-90's. Michael Jordan barely misses a layup in overtime to win the game for his team as time runs out. A while player on the other team says "You should go back to picking cotton, you lazy n*****r." Who would condemn MJ for cracking the cracker? This hypothetical situation only begins to approximate the racial tensions that Zidane (and all immigrants) have faced in France.

I'm still curious to hear what was actually said. Matterazzi claims he doesn't even know what the word terrorist means and didn't say that anyway. We'll have to wait to find out.

Clearly, something happened. Whatever Matterazzi said, it clearly provoked Zidane to make a strong gesture - though one aimed at laying out Matterazzi rather than, I dunno, smashing his face into the backside of his brain.

I am not trying to offer excuses. The point is that Zidane does not have rabies. He is not crazy. His act must be understood in the moment in which it occurred. He clearly deserved the red card. He would deserve a multi-game suspension if he were not retired. As to whether he sullied his memory, for that I will have to wait until I better understand what happened.

Further, if I were Zidane, I cannot say that I would have acted differently. He had nothing left to prove. Despite many critics calling him too old, he led his team to the World Cup. He had already won one. If events had gone differently and he had not reacted violently, who is to say that he would not sit in his house right now, regretting that he allowed Matterazzi's offense to go unpunished.

There are things that would set me off like that regardless of whether I was on the pitch or not. Fortunately, I was not in that situation. All this talk of Zidane, Zidane, Zidane totally obscures the fact that Italy is a cheap, dirty team that thrives on dives. Their win would have been without honor regardless.

Addendum: I think a lot of my thinking on this is informed by the idea of "fighting words" in U.S. Constitutional Law. While I strongly believe in freedom of speech, I also tend to side with the Supreme Court on this issue. Read about fighting words on wikipedia if you don't know what I am talking about.

World Cup Update

It looks like that Italian guy - Matterazzi - called Zidane a "dirty terrorist" which is not something you call someone of Algerian descent who grows up in an area of France known for racial strife.

So this Italian racist got what he deserved in my opinion. I only wish Zidane had waited for him in the parking lot to thrash him. FIFA had better investigate this.

Zidane got the Golden ball anyway as most valuable player of the tourney. Eat that Italy! Despite the fact that this game will always be remembered for Zidane's misconduct, your total disrespect for the game has been noted by giving the Golden Ball to him anyway.

To be clear, I think Italy would have won in a shootout regardless of Zidane. He can't take all 5 and I think Italy was clearly better prepared for that situation. But I hate this Italian team for their racism, divingism, and and general shenaniganary.

Thanks to both sides, young players will be inspired to copy the worst aspects of the game. I look forward to college ball in the fall - where dives are less common.

UPDATE: Materazzi now says he did not call him a 'dirty terrorist.' Zidane will address this in the coming days apparently.

Dang

I really hate Italy (futbol). I think this will probably be a dislike that will continue for decades. That being said, Italy played a good enough game to win and France failed to win despite dominating for at least 40 of the last 50 minutes.

I'm so glad it is over. No more horrible American announcers. No more gumbling about the ref.

So Zidane headbutted some Italian jerk. I am sick of hearing these American idiot announcers talking about how this was the worst thing in the history of sports. Yes, Zidane violated all sportsman codes. I'm sure that the Italian guy had it coming. He undoubtedly violated all sportsman codes with whatever he said. We don't know what happened. Merely because we could observe one and not the other does not make one worse than the other in my mind.

But then I was just thrilled to see an Italian guy go down with an actual injury rather than a Hollywood tryout. I don't think I can hear any more crap from these announcers and their moralizing. They say nothing about the dishonor that these Italians have brought to the game and the many cheap shots taken by Italians throughout the whole tournament and in this game - it was actually in the first few minutes today that their captain shoulder-checked Henry when he wasn't looking in the second dirtiest action of the match.

I love the sportsman code. I certainly do not want to encourage Zidane's actions but I have trouble feeling sorry for a team with no respect for sportsmanship suffering from their own methods.

Back to the Tour de France - a sport with great sportsmanship if you ignore the constant doping.

World Cup

I now know why I don't really enjoy watching soccer. I have long said that soccer is my favorite sport. I don't think anything gives me as much of a rush as kicking the ball around. When it comes to watching the pros though, I definitely understand why most Americans do not watch it. And probably will not.

I cannot imagine choosing to watch a soccer game if an american football game were on at the same time. I guess it is the same reason I refuse to watch the NBA. The pros in soccer and basketball have totally corrupted the sport.

Watching soccer is just painful. This comes from the fact that when one professional player approaches another close enough to touch, at least one of them, but often times, both will fall to ground and writhe about as though some internal parasite was simultaneously devouring all the player's internal organs.

This is to be contrasted with every other sports where players steadfastly refuse to admit they are hurt. Actual conversations from other sports. Hockey:

Coach: Hey there big shooter, you wanna come off the ice, eh?

Player: Nah coach, I'm good, eh?

Coach: Well ya know, maybe you should come off, we found your eye and can put it back in. We'll get you patched up right good and back on the ice in no time

PLayer: Well, if all the same to you, I'd like to wait until the end of the period, eh?

Football:

THUD

Trainer: Did you see that? His head spun around 3 times in one direction, then came back 4 times in the other.

Other trainer: Yeah, someone is going to have clean up all this blood.

Player: Ugh

Trainer to coach: He's messed up pretty bad. Doesn't even appear to remember what celebration dance he was going to do after scoring. He should probably sit out 1 play to recover.

Then there is soccer (game that I love):

Player: Oh God, my leg, it is broke! I'll never walk again! Woe is me, I'll be reduced to begging for alms on a streetcorner

Other player: My ankle! I have shredded every ligament in my ankle! I will need many surgeries just to turn it back to its proper direction.

*19 trainers rush the field with the magic spray and stretchers

Announcer: Looking at the replay, you can see that the two players did not actually touch each other and clearly both took dives.

Other announcer: Yes, they are clearly both playing up an invented foul. We can see quite clearly that nothing happened

Announcer: While we have this break, I should admit to you that as an American soccer commentator, I have no talent or skill whatsoever

Other announcer: I'll have to second that. I find myself repeating the same inane and inappropriate statements ten times each half.

Announcer: Can you believe they actually pay us for this? I mean, we are so bad, we probably reduce the small number of Americans who actually want to watch these games!

Other announcer: Hey, it looks like the magic spray has miraculously fixed Floppy McDivesalot's ankle. This is truly a miracle. However, it looks like Cheater McGameruiner is being carried off the field on the stretcher, his body prone.

Announcer: We have to remind everyone that this is not unusual or even frowned up on in soccer. These are long games with no timeouts. Whenever players have a chance, they will make sure dead balls give everyone a chance to recover. This is far easier than training in the off season. And they really do a great job of "selling" their fouls.

Other announcer: It looks like Cheater McGameruiner has recovered his strength. After being carried to the sideline, he jumped off the stretcher like a puppy shocked by a live power line. After 5 cartwheels down the sideline, he has attracted the ref's attention and sprinted onto the field like a new man. Truly, his recover from that totally fabricated foul is an inspiration like none other since the entire Italian team pretended to have died in 78th minute of the '94 World Cup, only to magically recover minutes later.

Announcer: Well, the action appears to have resumed, so we'll go back to this horrific display of low-level cheating, which we call "gamesmanship."

When it comes down to it, do you see hockey players pretending to be unconscious after a dirty hit in order to draw a 5 minute major rather than a 2 minute minor? NO. You see them get up and defend themselves. At the risk of taking this too far, there is a code of honor in many of these sports that does not exist in soccer. Sure, soccer players boot the ball out when a player appears to be injured to make sure whoever is rolling around has time to dry his tears. This does little to compensate for the embarrasment of faking injuries.

There is a solution. FIFA should begin reviewing games. Refs are unable to correctly guess if a player took a dive or faked an injury and don't want to risk carding someone who is genuinely hurt. FIFA needs to review games and penalize those players that obvious fake injuries. Simultaneously we must reject those who believe diving and faking injuries are a part of the game. They are not. Finally, anyone who goes down and is hurt (for real or not) must leave the game if play is stopped. The ref blows the whistle, the player has to go off. They are an abomination that ruins the game.

Are you ready for some football? After this World Cup, I sure as hell am. Come on Monday night!

If you aren't sick of reading about soccer, some dude in Ireland writes a compelling article titled "It's not the Referees That Should be Sent Home."

Soccer Announcers

After watching both games today, I could not take it anymore. Not only was the ref clueless in the second game and totally out of control, but the ESPN announcers are bloody painful. They offer no insights and repeat explanations for the cards each time one is issued. They would be perfect for an audience comprised entirely of alzheimer's patients.

It turns out you can contact ABC Sports and give them feedback. So I did. Remember, for this sort of letter, always start positive. They limit comments to 500 letters.

Thank you for showing all the World Cup games in HD and live. I am really enjoying the soccer.

However, you desperately need to get new announcers. Dave and Marcelo and interesting for about 3 minutes. No wonder Americans never watch this sport. Tommy and Adrian are far superior, but seem to have dropped off the earth.

I know we can do better. Some of those guys from univision must be multi-lingual, right? Please, try to get some actual talent for the next cycle. Thanks!

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