Saturday, June 26, 2010

Actual Things I Thought While Watching The Second Half Of The US-Ghana Match.

This is what it sounds like... live blogging, only it's not really live unless you're reading it as I'm typing it. Which is impossible, because I'm not posting it until it's all done. But you could always follow me live on Twitter, where I post these as I go...

As about 2:30 Saturday afternoon, having finished helping Middle with her financial aid, and having put the Babies! in their room to nap... theoretically... and having checked in on Sweetie, who was nontheoretically napping, I settled in to watch the very first World Cup Soccer Match I'd ever watched live -- or first since I kind of watched one back in 1994. I tuned in at minute 54:04, and here's what I thought:


Four headers in a row after that corner kick. I wonder what the record is for most headed-soccer-balls-in-a-row-in-a-game.

Sweep the leg! (Note: I've never seen The Karate Kid, or The Kid Who Will Smith Made Into The New Karate Kid. It's just a part of any American's genetic makeup to say sweep the leg!)

After Ghana almost scored:

Me: "He shouldn't have slowed down."
Middle: "He has to. There has to be a person between him and the goalie."
Me: "Why?"
Middle: "That's the rules of soccer."
Me:"That's stupid."
Middle: "If you're faster than the other person, you shouldn't get punished for it."

The Babies! are really thumping around in their room directly above me. I would go and check on them but there's no commercials.

On the penalty: I would hate to be the goalie on a penalty kick.

Also: Middle correctly predicted he'd kick high right. I said low left.

(Immediately after Donovan gets the penalty kick to tie the game, Mr Bunches begins pounding on his door. I send Middle to investigate, and she brings down a naked Mr Bunches, who announces that he would like cereal. I get him some cereal and take him back upstairs, where I see that Mr F has turned their mattresses into a fort. The nap doesn't look like it's going to happen. I close the door and head back downstairs, where on the TV screen it appears nothing has happened.)

Middle: "Hey, he just shoulder checked him. That's not good."
Me: "What's shoulder checking?"

(Middle doesn't explain.)

That US guy just got a yellow card, but doesn't miss the next game? Middle can't explain it, either. Soccer might be more fun if I knew the rules. Or it might be less fun. Hard to say.

Middle: "Is it cold there or something?"
Me: "Yeah, it's winter there."
Middle: "How cold is it there?"
Me: "Not as cold as it is here in winter."
Middle: "Where are they playing?"

Then we had to rewind to see who the celebrity was. It was Mick Jagger.

Why'd they stop here? What just happened? Middle said it was an illegal slide tackle, which made me ask "What's an illegal slide tackle?" She compared it to someone fouling someone else in basketball, which doesn't help me understand it at all.

I like the announcer with the British accent. It makes me feel like I'm doing something intellectual.

It would be cool to travel to South Africa for the World Cup. But if I went to South Africa, I wouldn't waste my time there watching soccer.

At 76:10, Middle and I think we've worked out what the "offsides" rule is. I'd go Google it but there' s no commercials. They need to just put in commercial breaks. Granted, I could simply use my DVR to pause the game, but that would mean getting up to get the remote, and I'm kind of settled in here.

So this is a grudge match? We played Ghana before? Soccer needs to hype that more. The NFL knows how to do that. If the NFL were in charge of this, there'd have been two zillion commercials this week playing up the rivalry between the US and Ghana. Thanks to soccer, I wasn't even aware that a rivalry existed, and I was only vaguely aware that Ghana existed.

Way to go Number 17! Oh, dang!

(There is more pounding on the bedroom door. I go up there to be greeted by a newly-again-naked Mr Bunches, and a rearranged fort, and also spilled cereal. I close the door and come back down again. This time, I grabbed the remote and paused it, though, so I haven' t missed anything.)

The US coach is the only guy in sports I can think of who's more bald than Matt Hasselbeck.

Middle: "I wonder what they eat for breakfast?"

That Ghana-ian penalty clarified what offsides is. It's like Google stepped in to help me out. (They probably did. Google has a lot of power, and they like me.)(But they don't like like me, so don't get any ideas. I don't roll that way.)

Only 2:57 left. I may devote my full attention to the game instead of googling the phrase "sexy soccer players." (Note to Google: The word sexy does not apply to men. Not when I google it.)

That was a VERY tense moment, on that corner kick. Also, how come time didn't expire?

Rule questions abound. Middle and I can't decide if soccer doesn't have time outs, or if nobody called a time out but they could have. Also, we don't know if, when a teammate gets red-carded and thrown out, does that mean the team must play with only 10 men on the field? Soccer is truly the Game of Mystery and Wonder.

It looked like the ref was having a coin toss. But that's not right, is it? Don't they have a face-off, or whatever a face-off is called in soccer?

Middle just felt compelled to point out to me that the US is now heading to the right on the TV screen. I feel compelled to note that I knew that. Mostly.

I think instead of "Ghanaians" they should be called "Ghan-ers." Ha!

Middle: "God, goalies can kick the ball so far."

Middle: "The coach's wife looks a lot younger than him."

OH MAN! That was truly a great kick, Ghana Man Number 3. I hate you for wrecking my spirits, but nice kick.

The announcer just said something about "the race for the golden shoe." What's that all about?

Holy mackerel! Who's that guy with the horns and the weird toothy face paint? And I thought the Dawg Pound and St. Vince were scary.

Middle wants to know where Ghana is located. I guess "West Africa," and google it. I'm right.

This game seems to have fallen apart. The impressive-seeming US team of the 2nd half has given way to a bunch of hackers. Then again, it's hard for me to know if they're doing good or not. Maybe the US is playing great, and the Ghan-ers are playing supergreat.

So the US needs to score two goals in 15 minutes to win, or at least one to tie? Having scored 1 in the prior 105 minutes, it doesn't look good. Then again, this team seems to only play in the last 3 minutes of a game, so maybe there's hope?

I call Flop! on that Ghan-er. Nobody even touched him!

Free kick. And the US doesn't capitalize. They don't seem to me to be organized. And 108:48 into this game, I'm pretty much an expert on soccer.

The US needs inspiration here. Quick, somebody play that Nike Commercial. Yodelododoyodelodoyodelodoyodelodyodelodolayhehu... Write your future, US!

How about you try to kick it away from the guys in red, US? Don't make me regret watching this game!

The announcers are blaming US's poor play on "tired legs." Don't the Ghan-ers have tired legs, too? Doesn't look like it.

Three minutes added time?

Look at that kick! Go US! Oh, Dang!


Time's up. Nice. I finally sit down to watch a soccer game, and the US doesn't even have the decency to win. This is just like that time I liked that girl in 9th grade and went to the dance and was going to ask her to dance only she wasn't there, so I asked her friend to dance, instead, only to have the friend laugh at me and refuse to dance with me. Only way less humiliating. Especially 'cause this time, I won't have to get teased about it in Spanish class.


You know, that still hurts a little. Why wouldn't she dance with me? I mean, I wasn't the greatest looking guy, or even remotely cool, but, still... I wore my velour shirt. That had to count for something.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Quotent Quotables: This is a Great Week To Be An American, Unless You're Not A Winner.

Not only did America totally crush everyone, including England, in that one group we were in in the World Cup, thanks to the equally-named Landon Donovan*

*I say people are equally named when their first and last names could be reversed without any real harm to the name. Like Barack Obama. Let's face it. There are a certain number of people out there who think his name is Obama Barack. Or maybe just Obama.

but Americans also took down the French in a second almost-sport, tennis -- where American-I'd-Never-Heard-Of-Before-This-But-That's-Because-The-Only-Tennis-News-I-Pay-Attention-To-Is-The-News-Involving-Women-Tennis-Players John Isner beat Frenchman Nicholas Mahut.

That's why it's so great to be an American this week -- and so terrible to be a Frenchman. (Frenchite? Frencher? Not sure what the title is.) Things are so great for Americans, in almost-sports-news, that the only way it could be watered down is if John Isner said something really wussy that indicated he's not really in it to win it, the way we demand our American sports heroes must be.

Let's see what Isner said after beating Mahut in the longest and least understood battle between the two countries since the French and Indian War. A site called "Sify News" quotes him as saying:

"What more can I say, the guy's a warrior," Isner said of Mahut. 'It's too bad someone had to lose."

To quote Steve Ditko era comic books: Arrrrgghhhhhhh!

It's not "too bad someone had to lose," Isner. That's the whole point of sports!

Nice going. With that quote, you began the conversion process to turn men's tennis into middle-school t-ball. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all just tie and sports were meaningless?

And wouldn't it be nicer if all sports featured athletes like this:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Short Stories With Long Titles

Just what they sound like!  But they're great, really, if you can get past the title.  Speaking of getting past the title, click the title to go to the story:



"The Guantánamo military commission for accused USS Cole bombing mastermind [DEFENDANT] had its first, but certainly not its last, secret session last Friday, June 14. According to ...[MEDIA], the hearing was 78 minutes long, and was closed both to the public and to the defendant. The subject of the hearing, and the title of the government motion being argued, were also classified. Defense counsel were permitted to attend but [DEFENDANT'S] attorney... told [MEDIA], “There was a secret session. That’s all I can say.” 

Based on a true story.  A true story you never heard about and didn't care about if you did.  But it's an important true story nonetheless.



If you are going to write about giraffes, the temptation is to call them all names like "Gerald" or "Rafael," but if your story is one in which a boatload of giraffes goes to war in the beginning of time then... wait, "Rafael Giraffe" actually sounds pretty good. It was the beginning of time, and the giraffes had just found out that Human God was going to flood the world.  But Rafael has a plan.  He has TWO plans, in fact. Neither works. 




A story in which the main characters are a dinosaur and a baseball player but they never meet and may not, in fact, have anything to do with each other at all, depending on how much you think about it.  Piatnitzkysaurus like chocolate.  The baseball player likes card tricks.  See what I mean about not having anything to do with each other? 



A rook is not a castle. That is true. It is also true what it says in this story about the number of possible configurations of a chess board, but that does not become important until the end. You are going to love the main character of this story, who is a rook.  That's right. A chess piece. But he's a very optimistic chess piece and in the end, isn't that what it's all about? 



Buzzards Loop:  originally published at The Truth Magazine, then in my collection Just Exactly How Life Looks.  Meet Presley and Josh, two cowboys wanderin' in the desert, talking about having sex with women in Albuquerque.  Well, one of them is talking.


If An Aardvark And A Komodo Dragon Were Actually To Decide To Engage In Combat, It Almost Certainly Would Not Go Like This, But, Then, Maybe It Would As There Are Many Things About The Natural World We Do Not Yet Understand.  
The title tells it all!  Not really.  But the title tells you what the story is about!  Story is here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gnus: Soccer Style. I'm a Champion World-Cup-Winner-Picker (Maybe)

Hooray for me! And New Zealand! But mostly me!

I'm celebrating because when I said almost two weeks ago that New Zealand, whose world cup team starters are shown here:





Was the underdog to root for against all odds, all three of the people who read this blog laughed at me.

But who's laughing now?

Me, and this guy:




New Zealand's tie with Italy today leaves them in a four-way tie for first place in Group F -- and a dead heat with Italy to advance to the next round -- although I'm not entirely sure what happens in the next round. I think it might be the part where Brett Michaels makes out with each team and then kicks one off the bus. Which New Zealand should totally ace.

Here's a Miss New Zealand:




Upon hearing the story, Sweetie pointed out that various parts would be, in her words "dangling." (Sports?)


Lewd and lascivious disorderly conduct? Or just the thing the sporting world needs to shake it from the summer doldrums? You decide, as I let the Wisconsin State Journal explain what I'm talking about:

More than 75 bicyclists paraded through Madison on Saturday, most starting out naked but ending up clothed, saying they were bringing attention to the causes of energy independence and body acceptance.

I've seen the pictures, and that latter goal is going to be hard to reach. I did see that one biker has what will likely be Sarah Palin's 2012 Presidential Slogan:


What, she's getting cuffed for that? If the 1st Amendment means anything, it protects Americans' God-given rights to parade their flabby, pasty (really? In June?) bodies in front of people trying to enjoy the Farmers' Market on a Saturday morning.

This, though, is my favorite photo of the story:




As that dad heroically tries to keep his daughter from looking at a naked person, the mom is totally staring. Take a photo, Mom; it lasts longer.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

This song is so inspirational, it might make me forget who Koman Coulibaly is. And that the US held, too. (So They Made A Song About Sports.)

The World Cup seems to inspire the songwriters and singers of the world -- literally, of the world, as the latest Song About Sports is from a guy named "K'naan."

No, he's not a minor character in a poorly-written fantasy novel, that apostrophe notwithstanding. K'naan is a Somali-Canadian, and his song "Wavin' Flag" is supposed to be the official song of the 2010 World Cup:


Of course, Waka Waka was supposed to be the official song of the World Cup, too, but who am I to judge a sport I barely understand? I suppose if Slovenia can benefit from an obvious bad call without an explanation against the US, then World Cup soccer can also have two official songs.

K'naan's song isn't just inspirational for you soccer players. It's also featured on the videogame NBA2K10.

An equally-good acoustic version exists:


But just try getting crowds to march in the street to an acoustic song, why don't you?

And speaking of marching in the streets, and bad calls in the US/Slovenia match, the outrage here in the United States is palpable as around the country, people switch their radios and TVs over to another channel before hearing the non-explanation of the bad call that robbed the US of a goal in the match Friday.

The call, by Koman Coulibaly, was not explained (or hasn't been yet, 24 hours into the international controversy) and according to CBS News, FIFA won't let Coulibaly explain the call. (Or at least won't make him explain it.)

Unnoticed in that CBS news report? This phrase:

"presumably he believes he saw some kind of infringement, some kind of holding. But most neutral observers
saw far more transgressions at that free-kick committed by the Slovenians. What the Americans might have done is an utter mystery."

I didn't watch the play -- but thanks to the magic of the Internet, and FIFA's slow reflexes in pulling stuff of Youtube, you can see it for now, thanks to Fox News, which never misses a chance to point out how terrible everything outside our borders is:


Let's focus in on something here:


See that? Looks like US players grabbing Slovenians. On the still that Fox uses -- at about 1:35 -- there's a US player on the left who's got his arm across the chest of a Slovenian. I don't know soccer rules (Note: Check wikipedia to see if Soccer has rules) but if the US committed fouls, and the Slovs committed fouls, only the US should be penalized.

We wasn't robbed, is what I'm saying. Here's a bikini chick to make you feel better:




Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday's Sunday's Poems (by Briane Pagel)

Like poetry? OH YESETRY. It doesn't have to rhyme. Ezra Pound says so. But MANY OF THESE DO ACTUALLY RHYME!

Your Father Puts Ketchup On So Many Inappropriate Things

An Ode To The McDonald's Cheeseburger: An Epic Poem of Conquest, Angels, Cheeseburgers, and The End Of The World:  An epic poem that is pretty much what it sounds like only there's demons, and stuff, too. Like if Wagner had gone on a date with Dr Seuss.

The Secret Identities Of Colors

Lazy Bones Jones

What Is Poetry?

Twenty-Six Letters

Serialized stories on this site written by Briane Pagel


Tuba & Drum, Slowly:  A family gathers for a reunion on a charming island where they used to go for vacations when they were children, and as their story unravels their lives take on new twists.  Watch as Carter Eisenhower and his new sister-in-law, Zoe, learn to navigate through the suddenly-apparent maze of relationships and traumas both major and minor. The story begins here.

The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!?: When a portal between dimensions explodes, it's up to Seal Team i to fight off every nightmare that ever lived in a multiverse that has crashed together.  Story starts HERE.

Finnegan's Awake: A Seal Team i story: A Seal's body taken hostage; a problem from outside the universes.  And the usual sheer carnage of a Seal team story, including a rogue planet.  Story starts here. 


'Twas the Fright Before Xmas, or, a Visit from AIN'T Nick.  Another entry in the greatest series of stories ever: Nick, Other Sexy Cop, and the rest of the gang are back for more holiday adventures, as the BLOOP! and a collection of emailed DNA threaten Xmas..the story begins here  

Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World! One day, Rachel woke up to realize she didn't know who or what she was.  On the advice of her octopus, she stared walking south. Before she knew it, she was caught up in a war between Heaven and Hell, with Valkyries, little blue men, and, of course, lesbian zombies all depending on her to save them.  Story starts HERE. (NSFW)





True, it's only Audrina Patridge, but she comes up first on that search, which is no doubt because all of you like her. So you get what you deserve.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gnus: NFL Style: "Do I get a check? I didn't do anything either."

Gnus: Nature's answer to the Volvo. And my update on the things in sports that I thought were interesting/could be joked about.



New Zealand scored its first goal, ever, in the World Cup, the NBA's mandate that the Finals go to a Game 7 was once again carried out by the dutiful Celtics, who bothered playing for only a quarter last night, all of which means I'm thinking about the NFL, and specifically, Albert Haynesworth getting paid $21 million to sit around.

See, Haynesworth's been unhappy with his role on the Redskins -- they probably haven't given him enough interns' heads to stomp on -- and so the Redskins reportedly offered Haynesworth the chance to find another team, provided he do so before April 1, when Haynesworth was due $21 million bucks. Now, having paid $21 million to a guy who once kicked his own teammate in the chest and had to be restrained, the 'Skins are finding out Haynesworth isn't exactly a "team player" and they're upset. Said coach Mike Shanahan:
"He decided to take our check and we're very disappointed he wasn't here today."

Disappointed? Haynesworth's whole MO is to take the money and not show up; after he got a big deal from the 'Skins, he played in two fewer games than the year before with the Titans, and recorded 16 fewer tackles. His sacks dropped from 8.5 in 2008 to 4 in 2009. Now, you've given him $21 million before he actually arrived at camp, and think he's going to try?

Hold it: I've just had a thought. Get me Dan Snyder on the phone so that I can tell him that I'll refuse to show up in his camp for the bargain basement price of, say, $10 million.

No, make it 11 mil. I've got a family to feed.

Here's the kind of action that gets you a $100 million payday in Dan Snyder's world:



And here's the obligatory hot sports chick

Seriously: That's the first image that comes up if you Google Image Search "obligatory hot sports chick." I love the Internet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gnus: Soccer Style: Red Sea Buoys Made A Song.


Local gnus, international gnus... I cover it all, about 2 weeks after everybody else does.


At the risk of turning this into all soccer, all the time, I feel compelled to let you know that England is not the only World Cup entry with an official song by an indie band... although, really, are there any "indie" bands anymore? Isn't indie just a label for the kind of hipper-than-you music that throws off pseudoscientific/quasipolitical references while mimicking REM's guitar work?

That's for another day, I guess. Here's Red Sea Buoys ode to either New Zealand World Cup Soccer, or to a world without color:





And, New Zealand, I am rooting for you in the World Cup, but you've got to help me out here. A search for "Sexy New Zealand Soccer Fan" comes up with two things: Pandas, and this:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quotent Quotables: So THAT'S how to play offense in the NBA.

They said it; I Plagiarized reported it...




Paul Pierce on his great game -- I'm told it was a great game; I didn't watch it because (a) I hate watching basketball and (b) I was busy simultaneously eating pizza at The Boy's graduation party/trying to keep my Dad from saying anything too embarrassing to my boss -- in what NBA officials had decreed would be a Boston win in Game 5:

I'm just giving what the defense takes me.

Here's Paul's salute to large-breasted Boston Celtics' fans:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gnus: NFL/Sexual Assault Style


Gnus is stuff that happened recently, and what I think about it. Gnus is also the only animal not used as a sports team nickname.



Ben Roethlisberger almost apologized to... someone, I guess... the other day. Under a headline claiming Big Ben was sorry, NBC New York reported that Ben said:

I've wanted to apologize to them [fans] for so many things. For being immature, for being dumb, for being young, for not knowing any better," the two-time Super Bowl winner he told Pittsburgh TV station WTAE.

Wanting to apologize and actually apologizing are two different things, so you know now that Ben's good at lawyer-ball, too. Ben went on to say that he got caught up in the Big Ben persona what with his success and adulation and all.

It's understandable. I've read a lot of interviews with quarterba
cks over the years, and they all say the same thing: After you win a Super Bowl, it's practically impossible not to rape someone.


Model shown wearing
appropriate attire
for Roethlis-dating
.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gnus: Soccer Style

Gnus lets you know what's going on in the world of sports... although if you're getting your sports' news from me, you are woefully behind... and what I think about that news.


I went searching for World Cup online live action -- the only time I've searched for something like that with the words World Cup preceding the rest of that phrase -- and found instead, pictures of this:



That is the giant Dung Beetle (replica!) which was used to push in a kind-of-saggy soccer ball as part of the opening ceremonies for the World Cup.

Am I missing something, or did FIFA just compare soccer to dung? That's gutsy. You wouldn't see the NFL pointing out, just before the Super Bowl kickoff, that the Lombardi Trophy kind of looks like a booger.

Gnus: Soccer style

Gnus lets you know what's going on in the world of sports... although if you're getting your sports' news from me, you are woefully behind... and what I think about that.



I'm a little disappointed that the World Cup has been going on for nearly 3 hours now (that's 6.7 hours, European) and I haven't yet been able to listen to a game on the radio or see on on TV. Or the Internet, where I understand things are see-able, too.

But that didn't stop me from listening, too loudly, to We Are Scientists inexplicable ode to England's soccer prowess:



"Inexplicable" because 2/3 of the band is from the US, and in the US, we believe in democracy, so how did the band end up backing England in a catchy song when they could have voted down the sole England fan. Plus, he's the drummer. Since when do drummers get a say in anything? Can anyone even name a drummer of any band?

They don't say how they chose a team to back in their hilarious explanation of how to write such a song, posted on Slate, so I'm left to wonder if liking soccer isn't just the first step to backsliding into liking other British things, like royalty, and this guy Wayne Rooney, and the fact that they call cookies "biscuits," which, when you think about it, is silly. Biscuits! No wonder we beat them in 1776. And again in 1812. And then in the little-known War of March, 1951, when my grandfather went over there on a trip and shoplifted some tea from Harrod's.

(Note: "tea" and "Harrod's" are both copyright Great Britain, 1285.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whodathunkit?! The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want To Know About The World Cup

Because the divorce judge was drinking when custody of this feature was decided, Whodathunkit?! is a joint venture between Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! and The Best Of Everything.

UPDATE: Pickles, I maybe am sorry. (Read on, you'll see what I mean.)

I've made up my mind. I am, like, 98% certain to watch a World Cup match.

Okay, 70% certain, with the percentage going up if you count "probably dozing off a bit with the TV tuned to the US-England match" as "watching the World Cup."

The World Cup -- which I'm led to believe features soccer, which, in turn, I'm led to believe is considered a sport by those parts of the world that Americans only venture to in order to bring back trinkets that they could have bought at Pier One but then they wouldn't be "authentic" -- begins today, and like everything else in soccer, the beginning itself is screwed up.

Because when I say "the World Cup begins today," I mean, of course, that it begins tomorrow -- since if you ask me (you probably wanted to but didn't know my phone number) a sporting event begins when, you know, the sporting event begins. Not when Shakira sings. Lots of things happen when Shakira sings, and none of them count as "the beginning of a sporting event."

The more I look at that last sentence, the dirtier it sounds.

Anyway, the World Cup has come around again, and I've decided that I'm going to watch it and follow it and even root for teams, a decision I made based on several factors.

First, it's the only truly worldwide event that happens every four years. Unlike other so-called worldwide sporting competitions (I'm looking at you, Olympics)(Actually, I'm not; I'm still looking at that picture of Shakira), the World Cup is said to take place every four years, and actually does take place only ever four years. The Olympics don't do that anymore. They say they do that, but the Olympics are a continuous event now. Like the NBA Finals and Lady GaGa, they never seem to go away.

The World Cup, on the other hand, happens every four years. Or maybe it happens more often. Who knows? This is the first year I've decided to follow it.

Second, my decision to follow it was made based on the fact that the U.S. takes on England in the opening match. I'm not sure if the US has ever played England in soccer before -- and I know I'm supposed to call it football, or maybe futbol, but let's face it, "Rest of the World," you're going to do what Americans say you have to do, or we're going to overwhelm your country with some combination of military force/Levi's Jeans/goodwill visits from Larry King. So get with the program (i.e., the US) and call it soccer.

As I was saying, I'm not sure if the US has ever played England in soccer before. I'm also not sure if "England" is the right word for the country - -aren't they sometimes called "The United Kingdom," or am I getting United Kingdom confused with Magic Kingdom? (The last time tha that happened, I ended up sharing a tea cup with Prince Charles.) But I know they play each other this Saturday, at 1:30, and that's got my competitive and creative juices flowing (which means you don't want to sit next to me on the bus)(unless you're Prince Charles).

For example, I came up with the most awesome ad ever for US Soccer -- not a hard competition to win, since the last most awesome ad ever for US Soccer had a surfeit of English Junk:


This guy was once famous for something or other.


Whereas my ad would use "balls" in a more poetic/metaphorical sense.

Here's my idea for the ad -- and you can go ahead and use it, whoever it is that is in charge of promoting US Soccer; don't worry about payment, I'll sue you later on. Not being good with Photoshop, and in fact not having Photoshop on my computer (collective gasp!), I'll have to use the power of words to convey the idea.

Here's the idea, via words. Don't pull an eyeball-hammy reading it:

The ad opens on a scene showing a soccer... um... field? Pitch?... whatever, and it's kind of nighttime and kind of daytime, with lights and people cheering. You get the idea. Use footage from an NFL game to overcome the fact that on average, soccer games draw a crowd of 6 in the US. As the camera homes in on the field, we see some British players [we know they're British because they have bad teeth and haircuts from the 1960s, and also they sweat in a nonphotogenic way] running downfield kicking the ball. They get to the American [I.E. Good Guy] side of the field, and are met with US soccer players who, from the waist down, are wearing shorts, socks, and shoes -- soccer garb. From the waist up, they've got revolutionary war coats on and tricorner hats [NOTE: This will appeal to Tea Partiers, because they're dumb]. The US players steal the ball, knock the Brits around a bit, and generally look great doing so.

At the end, the players line up over the crumbled bodies of their British foes, and the voice over says:
"234 years ago, we told them to take their king and shove him. Now, we're going to prove we've still got balls!"

I've got goosebumps. You probably do, too. Flaunt them.

That ad would be almost as good as the ad that really also made me want to watch soccer, although I didn't understand the ad, really, until I read the explanation on Slate.com. I'm talking about Write the Future, Nike's Hononymical Ode To Soccer Via That Guy Who Directed That Naked Japanese Girl In Babel:



That ad is awesome, and probably even more awesome if you know who those people are. Like I said, thanks to Slate.com, I kind of get it. Plus I like the music.

Finally, I've decided to watch the World Cup because, why not? It's not like I've got anything else going on. Summer is a dead zone for sports, and if I can find something, anything to watch while spending most of my time praying that Better Off Ted hasn't been cancelled, I'll take it.



But I understand that you, like me, may not be entirely sold on soccer -- that it may take more than Shakira's butt and yodeling rock songs and puns about American Balls to get you to watch soccer, and so that's why I, like always, am here to present you with some insight into the mystifying world of this sport that the rest of the world loves so much, a sport that this time around might actually capture the interest of America and take off like a pop cultural phenomenon on the par of, say The Muppet Show (it won't), and as always, that insight is presented by giving you The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want To Know, with this time those things being related to the World Cup, vaguely.

This'll give you something to talk about after you've used the line "The US should make it out of their group," which is the only actual-soccer-related line I know, and which I drop into conversation all the time, as shown in the actual transcript of the actual conversation I had this morning:

Cop: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: The US should make it out of their group.

Cop: I'm going to taze you.

Me: Goalie? Andrew Rooney?

Let's get on with those things you want to know!

1. Shakira stole Fozzie Bear's line to promote the World Cup:

I didn't just put Shakira's picture at the top of this post by accident; it was for a "valid business reason," and by that I mean "Sweetie can't get mad at me for this one," the business reason being that Shakira is some sort of official spokeswoman for the World Cup. She's going to perform her song tonight at the Opening Ceremonies -- what is it with worldwide athletic competitions and opening ceremonies? -- but you can get a sneak preview of it now and then spend tonight watching Parks & Recreation re-runs:



Waka Waka is, of course, Fozzie Bear's signature line:



But Shakira was forced to use Waka waka in her song, because what else rhymes with Africa? Nothing. There's not a single other word in the world that rhymes with Africa.

Or maybe Shakira was intending her song to be a multifaceted tribute to Africa, Fozzie Bear, and Pac Man, because if you google the phrase "what does 'waka waka' mean" you'll get, as the first result, a link to a definition that hilariousily claims Pac Man is called Pakkuman. Ha ha! Right!

Speaking of Pac Man, isn't it about time that we, as a world, decided to make Donkey Kong into a double-entendre of some sort? I'm thinking something along the lines of "Man, that chick was Donkey Konging me all night long."

In reality, waka waka is said to mean almost anything. One source (?) says it means Do it in Cameroonian (which might be a real language; I'll have to check on that later), while another claims that waka means canoe in Maori, which I know is a real language because Alan Dean Foster once wrote a book that I read, and the book was called Maori.

Alan Dean Foster also wrote Splinter of the Mind's Eye, proving that you can get paid for writing fan fiction, so as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to send off my Phineas & Ferb novelization to every major publisher.

2. Nobody can actually win the "world cup." Unlike the Lombardi Trophy, which pretty much everyone and their brother gets to hold up after the Super Bowl (unless you lose and pout your way off the field, right Peyton?), and unlike the disgusting traditions surrounding the Stanley Cup, which apparently is used to feed the smelly, drooly dogs owned by smelly, drooly hockey players , the powers-that-be who are in charge of Soccer Universe don't actually let anyone ever win the World Cup.

Except Brazil.

Brazil is the permanent owner of the previous World Cup, called the "Jules Rimet Cup" (it was named after Richard Nixon, who used Jules Rimet as his pen name when writing crosswords for the LA Times in the 1930s).


Looks classy, doesn't it? And not
at all like it's made of
papier-mache.


The Jules Rimet Cup, as befits a world-class trophy, didn't always spend all its time sitting in a pawnshop in Brazil (I'm guessing); it also was hidden in a shoebox under a guy's bed in World War II, to protect it from occupying troops, who likely would have used it as a bong.

Despite the incredible levels of security and commitment implied by keeping a trophy in a box under your bed, the Jules Rimet Cup somehow fell into evildoers' hands, anyway -- and by "evildoers" I mean "a small dog named Pickles."


This may not be the actual Pickles, but
it's not like a dog can sue for libel.
Can they? I'll see you in court, Pickles!


According to the official World Cup website, run by someone called "FIFA," this actually happened:

Then in 1966, the cup disappeared while on display as part of the build-up to the World Cup in England and was only recovered, buried under a tree, by a little dog called Pickles.

Update: I'm told that maybe Pickles didn't steal the cup, but might have rescued it? Who would ever expect a dog to do something honorable, though?

If you're keeping track of things England has lost, it's

1. North America.
2. Australia
3. The Spice Islands.
4. The Jules Rimet cup.

On the plus (?) side, they've gained Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.


There was not even a 0.00000001% chance that I was
going to post a picture of Madonna here.


The Brits aren't the only ones to treat the Jules Rimet Cup as though it was less valuable than a McDonald's Shrek glass; the Brazilians, having won the right to keep the Cup forever, promptly had it stolen by bandits. FIFA claims the Cup was probably melted down -- but I think I'm right about that Pawn Shop guess.

In any event, they're not taking any chances anymore. FIFA now doesn't let anyone keep the cup. Winners hold the Cup until the next World Cup competition, after which it returns to FIFA.

Unless Pickles gets it first.

3. Who's the underdog I should be rooting for to win against all odds, with a movie someday being made about it in which a washed-up actor will play the coach?

I tried to look up the odds of teams winning, at a site called "World Cup Odds EU," figuring that Europe must be good for something, and gambling on soccer might be it. But instead of a nice, easy list of teams followed by odds, the way the US would do it (also known as "the correct way"
), I got all kinds of groups and things, and numbers with commas in them instead of decimals and got horribly confused.

So I had to retreat to the heart of America -- Las Vegas -- and try to find real odds there. But that was even worse. At this site, I saw something that said I could bet on South Africa vs. Mexico tomorrow, with one team being "+175" while the other was "+145."

Rest of the world: If the US wanted to use Celsius and kilometers, we'd let you know. Quit trying to wreck stuff by making it simpler and easier to use, because when you do that, I can't figure out which team I'm supposed to put the mortgage money on.

Before I ended up putting 13 hectometers on Serbia, I clicked away from the site, and decided to arbitrarily pick New Zealand:
Shown: the 2010 New Zealand
world cup team (starters only)


New Zealand is my Underdog-To-Root-For in the World Cup primarily on the basis that any country which has suffered the indignity of Guillermo Del Toro insulting it deserves a pick-me-up, and what is a better pick-me-up than being picked to win it all by an obscure sports blog?


Seriously, what's a better pick-me-up than that? 'Cause I need something to give Sweetie to make up for that Shakira picture.

And this one:



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