Wednesday, June 14, 2006

World Cup Fever

There are days one is glad to get up.

Such was this morning. the scribe was forced to awaken at 6 a.m. to begin is quadrennial love/hate/torture relationship with Spain’s national soccer team. Spain has brutalized and tantalized its fans for decades with beautiful play and poor final results. Knowing little about the quality of the first opponent, Ukraine, the scribe made his espresso and settled in for the worst.

Two hours later he was getting an e-mail from his pop asking, “Wow, are they that good?” Another friend sent an e-missive with the subject line, “Iberian Dreams.”

The final score was four-nil and they looked fabulous. The announcers on Univision (bless their wall-to-wall coverage) remarked that Spain was not dominating the game, but “exercising a monopoly” over it, adding that the squad was the most complete to debut thus far.

Then the scribe went to the Web site of WBAI New York to learn the hostess of the chunky, funky Urban texturized collage show “Wake Up Call”, Deepa Fernandes, had opened the morning featuring recordings from the recent tour of New York, “Vedette Does La Danza,” with Omar Torrez.

What’s great is having these recordings within a news-of-the-day context. Hear Hillary Clinton get booed as she tries to establish herself as a “serious” and plausible presidential candidate by going pro-war.

Shame on her.

What’s also great is having your novel and your partner’s music plugged on a great progressive radio station in the largest media market in the world.

Anyway, back to the World Cup, the ratings for which, Associated Press reports are

Viewership is up 65 percent over the last time. The writer fails to note that the 2002 festival of joy and roundball was held jointly in Korea/Japan, which meant the games were on, typically, at 4:30 a.m.

But the piece serves our purposes so we dish it up to you anyway. Lots of journalism is actually arranged like that, you know.

The “San Diego Union-Tribune" ran a nice piece Tuesday in its Opinion section entitled, "World Cup Unity."

Commenting on the fact that, “crowds are gathering at restaurants and bars throughout San Diego County to root for their favorite teams during the 2006 World Cup. The tournament is being played in Germany, but interest in the games spreads around the globe.”

The piece focused on the local passion behind the match between Mexico and Iran, which the Aztec team won 3 to 1 noting, “The whole display was colorful and beautiful and harmless. These were Americans, who, for a few hours, had the chance to root for the homeland of their ancestors in a soccer tournament that – at least in some parts of the world – stirs more excitement than the Olympics. This wasn’t an act of subversion or cultural separatism. This wasn’t an insult to the culture of the United States.

“Rather, it was a clear illustration of what makes this country such a magnificent place – that we can celebrate our differences while still keeping first in mind all that we have in common.”

Okay, that last paragraph is in line with the jingoist journalism the “U-T” is prone to, but highwayscribery applauds them for taking note of an event happening halfway around the world featuring the prowess of other countries rather than that of the United States.

highwayscribery wanted to use the occasion of Spain’s glorious victory to highlight an article written by Henry Kissinger on the eve of the 1986 final between Germany and Italy in Mexico City.

The first part of the article, about the game’s evolution isn't quite so interesting as the second part that observes the modern game is a, “very tactical game, its complexity becoming a fascinating reflection of national attitudes,” and then goes onto analyze the styles of then-West Germany, Brazil, Italy and England.

His observations are delicious:

“The German national team plays the way its general staff prepared for the war; games are meticulously planned, each player skilled in both attack and defense. Intricate pass patterns evolve, starting right in front of the German goal. Anything achievable by human foresight, careful preparation and hard work is accounted for.”

Kissinger goes on to point out that West Germany’s post-war soccer successes have been ample, but that, “At the same time, the German national team suffers from the same disability as the famous Schlieffen plan for German strategy in World War I. There is a limit to human foresight; psychological stress on those charged with executing excessively complex maneuvers cannot be calculated in advance. If the German team falls behind, or if its intricate approach yields no results, its game is shadowed by the underlying national premonition that in the end even the most dedicated effort will go unrewarded, by the nightmare that ultimately fate is cruel...”

The opposite, he says, is the case with Brazil. “Its national teams are an assertion that virtue without joy is a contradiction in terms. Brazilian teams display a contagious exuberance; Brazilian fans cheer them on to the ecstatic Beat of samba bands. Brazil always has the most acrobatic players, the individuals one cannot forget whatever the outcome of the match. But, as in Brazil’s political institutions, this individualism is combined with an extraordinary ability to make the practical arrangements required for effective national performance.”

Okay, that last part is not exactly an anarcho-syndicalist view of the unequal and troubled country, but let’s move on.

The Brazilians on the attack look like, “a dancing band at Carnival. Wave after wave of yellow shirts roll against the opposing goal until the opposition is overwhelmed without being humiliated; it is no disgrace to be defeated by a team whose style no one else can imitate.”

No, but it hurts like hell anyway. Ask any of the other teams that usually get eliminated during the yellow-shirted magicians’ march to the title.

Kissinger says the flaw of the team is that, “The players sometimes are so intoxicated by their brilliant maneuvers that they can occasionally forget the purpose of the exercise is to score goals.”

Just as there is no more West Germany, in the scribe’s opinion, that samba-band-Brazil is a thing of the past, too. They have found defense and, yes, violence and dirty play; developments which have served to cement an impression the soccer Gods are Brazilian, because they are perpetual favorites.

Anyway, that’s a sample. Read the article for the former Secretary of State’s geopolitical insights into the playing style of Italy and England.

Y Aupa Espanya!

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