Sunday, July 29, 2007

Iraq! (with an unsarcastic exclamation point, seriously)

Iraq beat Saudi Arabia to win the Asia Cup.

Think about what that phrase could mean. Again, "Iraq beat Saudi Arabia." Sports have that ability to take actions and phrases so far out of context it creates totally new meaning. So the Miracle on Ice was far more than a hockey game. So quarterbacks throw "bombs" and pitchers throw "bullets" from their "guns."

But now, a day or so removed from an announcement stating the US will sell Saudi Arabia a massive shipment of arms, the exact "arms" we're talking about, in a soccer game, can't be used!

And the winning goal was scored by the head of the Iraqi captain, Younis Mahmoud, off a corner kick. Isn't that perfect? The leader of the team uses his head to win. Where's that in the real war?

In the end sports are games. They are entertainment. But just like many comedians manage to pack their jokes with profound observations, sports are often able to present our own lives to us in a fresh perspective, helping us to see the world in a new way. How ridiculous do the bombings after Iraq's victory over South Korea look considering they targeted something so pleasing as sports? How unnecessary and straight up brutal? And it works the other way as well: how much did America rethink its leisure and safety when sporting events were cancelled after September 11?

There is a reason why Plato and the Greeks considered the gymnasium (wrestling) to be as fundamental a part of a youth's education as any of his other lessons. (And the obese societies of today spend their time fighting over whether dodgeball should be forbidden in elementary schools because some teams lose).

I sit here, in Jerusalem, straining and squinting to watch an Arsenal game streamed live over the internet. It's being broadcasted in Chinese. One of the announcers sneezed, or so I thought, because the other kept talking normally, as if the sneeze was a word in Chinese...

And did I mention it was a preseason game with no real influence on the season?

The point is that sports hold a power as deep and forceful as the inspiration, passion, and love that each athlete implements and relies on in every game, match, or race. Iraq's coach, Jorvan Vieira, said "This has brought great happiness to a whole country. This is not about a team, this is about human beings." And it makes me think about home field advantage, that curious phenomenon in sports. How can the fervid motivation from a group of people not actually playing transfer into one of the participants and affect the outcome? Did the Iraqi players really feel their country's energy today? Isn't that amazing?

I wonder if we could use that same idea in the world at large--if we could transfer our fervid wishes for peace or compassion or whatever onto the politicians and the people on the ground.

I know it's not that simple. It would be more than idealistic to assume a group of people could sit to together, meditating, and (like The Force in Star Wars or something) change events across the globe. But I saw how the World Cup revitalized Germany. And the number of wars that have stopped because of a soccer game are too many to count (the most recent, maybe, being when the chaos in Haiti settled down because the Brazilian national team came to play). I guess we should keep our feet solidly on the ground here and just say that there's a lot to learn from the peculiar realm of sportsdom.

So while Iraq remains in war their athletes “felt the burn” and “fought the pain” and survived an "onslaught" in the last minutes to protect their goal. They were "bombarded" but "dug in deep" and now go home as "victors," as "champions." Who knows, maybe there will even be a parade...

If only sports were a little more real.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Iraq has a soccer team--it and its people are all survivors

I hope everyone saw the clips of Iraqi citizens celebrating their soccer team's victory over South Korea in the Asia Cup semifinal.

I hope everyone also heard about the two bombings that were purposefully aimed at the celebrations.

I hope everyone heard the chants of the fans which went something like, "Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians--damn the terrorists!"

I hope everyone at least knows that David Beckham is a British soccer player, now a part of the LA Galaxy.

I hope every sportswriter who blasted soccer the past few weeks in coverage of Becks' arrival also saw the news about the Iraqi soccer team.

I hope everyone realizes that, as an ambassador of the sport that can create true smiles on the faces of a million perpetual survivors, David Beckham deserves his $250 million.

This sport is worth it in every way imaginable.

Photobucket Album

Monday, July 16, 2007

Earlham College, we hardly knew ye

I guess there’s controversy about those US News & World Report College Rankings:

The thing is that most of the colleges competing are small, liberal arts colleges. I used the USNAWR rankings in order to find schools that I would probably qualify for and schools that were similar to one another. The rankings also put all of the schools’ info in one place: size, location/ geography, most popular majors, demographic, etc.

You have to take rankings of ANYTHING with a grain of salt. Rankings never take into account personal taste because they cannot.

The fact is that not many kids know immediately where they want to school, and not all have the luxury to go and look at every school that they think they MIGHT want to go to. If these liberal arts refuse to give their numbers, their ranks could slip further. This would not be helpful in the slightest. Kids aren’t just looking for rankings--they’re looking for leads and ideas.

If they wish to have their colleges stricken from the USNAWR rankings, they will become invisible to many prospective students. These colleges need to give college students more credit--well, I guess they don’t need to if they’re accepting the bottom of the bushel, but you get my drift. We’re not stupid: we base it more than just on rankings based on Alumni giving. We just need a push to start looking.

Harvard, Yale, Duke, Rice blah blah are perenially ranked number 1. I never once wanted to apply or attend any of these schools. You have have to assume that kids know what they want --don’t write them off as idiots.

So, go ahead, get off the rankings. It will hurt you a lot more than an arbitrarily low ranking ever will. It will make you invisible.

And bad press is ALWAYS better than no press.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Now I don't consider myself any kind of government watchdog, but I do think that there are certain trends in this world that deserve more attention than they receive currently. Here is an example.

The surgeon general is being politically pressured by the administration. At first this appears, like the pardoning of Libby, an unexplainable statement of 'Yeah, we're the Government we can do whatever we want.' But I'm careful not to make any such widesweeping statements. So I sit here and think about it for a while.

I realize, after trying to figure out what Carmona's motives might be, that he has no motives. He was under oath at a congressional hearing. So. It is exactly an example of the government's hyperinflated power issues. I won't say this administration, though, because this is a phenomenon of all governments. Everywhere.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

?uestlove's Detainment

?uestlove, drummer of the roots, was racially profiled at the Buffalo airport recently. Because I'm going to go see him next week here in Berlin I figured it was pertinent enough to post his blog from that day.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Re: Thoughts on the Music Industry

My main question with the music industry is this: Is the radio better or worse for music as a whole?

Better: The radio is not just better for music, its necessary. It serves as a medium for artists to get their product to the audience, it publicizes artists and concerts, and it provides important quasi-journalistic functions like interviews.

Worse: The radio is detrimental to music as a whole because it creates a hierarchical system which artists have to placate in order to get their product across. In this way, the purity of music is fundamentally compromised--as Jay-Z said (contradicting himself, of course) 'If I don't play their show/ they don't play my hits.' This kind of politicization of music is a shame.

Better: This is not politicization, it's merely the fact of the matter with art. Artists must have their audiences in mind if they want to make money. Sure musicians can ignore the radio and make 'pure' art that nobody sees but then they won't get their message out and therefore sacrifice a basic premise of art, that people hear/see it!

Worse: Still, we don't need the radio to do this anymore. Because of myspace, cd burning, etc. there is newfound democritization in music. Anyone and their mom can get a cd out there. Radio can't be responsible for sifting through all these artists because radio is only concerned with their advertisers and the biggest record companies.

I THINK, The fact is that the radio can be appreciated for certain kinds of music but should not be relied on for the entire music industry because, as long as the goal here is to get the best music, there is simply too much out there and too much independant stuff (so that it purposefully shuns the radio) out there for the radio to be as definitive a source as it was back in the day.

Sara, Pat, Josh, People--what say you?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

some thoughts (the semi-patriotic holiday edition!).

independence day. tomorrow, 231 years ago, we officially left the british empire and started our quest to outpace them in every facet of life.

except one. no, not eating figgy they dominated us last time we played (in chicago. they brought their b-team. richardson? downing? bent? yes, i know all of them, but come on).

will that change? the us and mexico are cleaning up at the u-20 world cup in canadaland, and it has me wondering: are we approaching the dawn of a new soccer century?

whoaaaa. slow down. argentina pasted us (though we scored the first goal!) and paraguay beat us (though, SUPPOSEDLY, we played much better and missed 2934729743 open goal chances) in copa america.

but it’s interesting:do u-20 results offer foreshadow future events? I looked up the winners, and argentina, brazil and portugal have won pretty much all of them (the ussr, west germany, spain and yugoslavia went on to each win one...and only one of these countries still exists). the best us finish? one 4th place title, in 1989. mexico was the runner-up in the first one.

Holland/The Netherlands/The Tulip People/They Who Got Building the Levees Right, Germany, France and England did not qualify for this year’s cup. Famously, Holland did not qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

Maybe the US and Mexico are getting better, but so is Europe, considering that most of the powers couldn’t even get in. The biggest difference is that the players from the powers are on the world club stage--Denilson captains Brazil’s U-20 and plays for Arsenal. I’ll buy into the new US Century when our players are at clubs with the big boys--not meddling in Salt Lake City.

Are you listening, Freddy? You’re being upstaged by Jozy Altidore.

Man, I’m starting to sound like a real US Soccer fan. Go figure.


On the note of “building levees/dams correctly”, I heard an ad on the radio today for the National Guard. It said “we were there, on August 28, even when Katrina was still happening, and we saved 33,000 lives.”

O rly? How do you quantify that number?

I just don’t think anyone should use Katrina as a positive publicity tool. It was a travesty, and to say that you were “triumphant” and saved lives pisses on the graves of all those that died there.


Monday, July 2, 2007

holocaust follow up

yes these holocaust discussions are important: