Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Video Premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

To continue on with the odds and ends theme we have going, we have a couple of videos worth watching.

First up is "Guys Jumping Into Jeans". The first couple of jumps are impressive, but it doesn't seem that these jumps alone make the video worth highlighting.

Don't worry. It gets better. Much better. Amazing, in fact.


By now, everyone has seen Kobe's Aston Martin jump. Now, though, we have Kobe teaming up with the Jackass boys and jumping over a pool of snakes.

The best part is Wee-Man's Kobe hug at the end.

This video montage puts the two death-defying stunts together--and they're prefaced by Kobe dunking as various historical heroes.


Then, we have homeless James Bond. I realize homelessness is nothing to laugh at (it really isn't), but this video is a pretty entertaining watch.

"There's a word for what you're doing, Jojo. It's called banking--and it's not something that homeless people do"

Does James Bond look like James Murphy to anyone else?

(Photo courtesy of

The Onion loves homeless people and their cans as well.
Lastly, we have a live version of Utada Hikaru's "Moving on Without You". I keep meaning to write a jpop post--I wouldn't even call my love of jpop a guilty pleasure, because I don't feel guilty about loving it at all--but this video is so full of neon lights and has such a good house feel that it's too good to not put up

And, for the fun of it, here's another great song of hers--"Traveling" live


And, get your sleep in now. The 2008 European Cup is fast approaching, and, if you're like me, you're going to have to put up with 1 AM game start times.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Odds, Less Ends

Did anyone else catch this hilarious little AP story this morning?

NASA rushed Wednesday to get a special pump on board shuttle Discovery to fix a balky toilet at the international space station, as the launch countdown got under way.

The space station's Russian-built toilet has been acting up for the past week.

The three male residents have temporarily bypassed the problem, which involves urine collection, not solid waste.

WHOA! How do the males "bypass the problem" exactly? I mean, I can speak from extensive family road trip experience that men can generally hold it in better than women (or at least better than my mom and sisters), but can you imagine having to hold it until a new spacecraft arrives?!!

I just love it when it's hard to differentiate the real news from an Onion article.

Don't worry, JJ has the scoop that you're all craving:


In any case, when you use the bathroom today, pause for a second to remember and honor the brave astronauts in space. Those intrepid pee-holders are due our utmost reverence.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

odds and ends

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

You know the economy's hit a recession when school's c
an no longer afford to take students on field trips. Museums are feeling the hit of not seeing students as well. Honestly, without field trips, I don't know how I would have made it through seven years of elementary school.

Are we digging for oil in Alaska? I'm strictly against the idea, but if we are, it's a failure. Not only is it killing the environment, but we're not even seeing lower prices. What's the point?


Jemele Hill at ESPN says that we should all be rooting for a Detroit-Spurs final because it would mean that the supposed conspiracy--that the NBA wants a Celtics-Lakers match-up for old times sake (and for the ensuing ratings bonanza)--won't happen.

WHAT? That's the reason that we should want to see these teams in the finals? Not because she thinks they're the best teams? Not because they play basketball fundamentally sound? If she made those arguments, I would strongly and respectfully disagree because that is not the Finals that I'd like to see, but I'd understand where she was coming from--those points are valid.

But just to avoid the conspiracy? You'd be hard pressed to argue that the Lakers and Celtics haven't been the best two teams in the NBA over the course of the year--I mean, that is why they're the number one seeds. And, the teams that make it out of the respective conference finals are the best teams and deserve to be in the Finals.

BUT JUST TO AVOID THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS? Are we diminishing sports to nothing more than idle talk?

And she gets PAID to bang that stuff out? Give me a break. If anyone buys that argument, I've got some free, unclaimed islands in Hawaii to sell you tax free.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

air big brown?

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Big Brown is going to be running at the Belmont Stakes in two weeks to try and complete the Triple Crown. All I know about horse racing is the following:

The horses are three year old males that only run on the highest level for one year
The Triple Crown consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont Stakes (in that order)
Belmont is the longest of the three courses

With that being said, I also know we've seen many horses going for the Triple Crown in the past couple of years (Smarty Jones and Funny Cide come to mind). Many people have said that this year's Preakness had a weak field and that though Big Brown is the favorite to the Belmont and complete the Triple Crown, some horses run only in the Belmont in order to act as spoilers to take advantage of the horses who have run in the other races. (Seriously, though--I can recuperate from a two mile run in three weeks)

This isn't what matters, though. The Onion had a great piece on Nike sponsoring Big Brown (yes, we're fully aware that the Onion is a parody newspaper). However, as usual, they're on to something.

Much has been said of Phil Knight's involvement in collegiate sports--especially at his alma mater, the University of Oregon. Yes, he has made the locker rooms at Oregon's Autzen Stadium great, but he is also noted for playing politics via his large donations to the school's athletics programs.

his is nothing new--rich alumni paid for June Jones' hiring at SMU, but Knight's meddling goes much further than that. He got Oregon's track coach fired because the two butted heads (if you recall, it was Knight who talked then Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman to use his homemade waffle running shoes), and Oregon's athletic director said that he would "probably talk to Phil Knight before making any hirings".

Knight's donation of $100 million this year paid for improvements to the school's athletics facilities and is going to fund the school's new basketball arena (though their current arena, McArthurt Court, is great--it is said that the baskets, which descend from the ceiling, shake when the crowd is trying to distract opponents taking free throws). However, his donation also brought back baseball (at his request) and forced wrestling to be dropped.

The point? It'd be trite, cliche and naive to say that "big money is bad"--because it isn't. However, Oregon needs to remember that it is a state university (unlike SMU) and that it cannot let donors run it. It has an identity--but, with their terrible uniforms, it seems more like a testing ground for new Nike products. We all know that I am a Nike apologist, but this is going too far.

The company does branding better than any other. The Swoosh is ubiquitous as the Coke logo. And, Nike has turned Michael Jordan into a man identifiable by a picture. Yes, it's cool to have your own logo, but at what point does this mean losing one's identity and becoming a complete consumer product?

Think about it, Oregon. You've been struggling athletically for awhile (apart from glimmers of hope this past year, until Dennis Dixon went down). Do you want to be a great athletic institution or do you want to be viewed as Nike U?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Video Premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

We've done a fair bit of follow-up on Wednesday's Champions League final, but it can't hurt to go a little further.

This week's video is a shoutout to (1) stupid idiot dumb thoughtless red cards by great players in big games; and (2) unlucky penalty kick slips. We'll give you the most famous three boneheaded red cards in reverse chronological order, starting with Wednesday's:

I kept telling people throughout the game that Drogba is the best forward in the world. Well, here's an example of why he'll never play for Arsenal.

This was the most tragic moment of Zidane's career, and, sadly, the only moment that so many Americans will remember. ESPN had a field day with this highlight (along with struggling to pronounce the really quite simple "Zinedine Zidane" without saying ZiDAYNE...) and it's sad because Zidane was one of the greatest players ever.

The fact that when you search his name on YouTube, the headbutt is the first result is a shame, but definitely worthy. He cost his nation the World Cup, and it was a classless act besides.

This is of course Beckham's most famous moment in England, the day in which he lost the favor of an entire Island. Alas, he did win it back with his free kick against Greece, and now he lives to tell it all in Adidas commercials.

And you really do have to feel bad for John Terry--he is Chelsea through and through, and to slip so unluckily in the single most gravitous moment in his Chelsea career.

But hey, Beckham can relate:

Alright you JJ folk--have a great weekend, and don't forget to read at least one dramatic and emotional newspaper article about soldiers in honor of Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

from russia, with love--again.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

We've discussed the Champions League final ad nauseum, and I can't guarantee we won't cover it again, but we haven't discussed the city that hosted this year's final--Moscow.
Now officially the largest city in Europe (well, I guess determining what Europe is exactly is relative), Moscow was not able to handle all of the visas that fans were going to want to come into the country to watch the game. The finalists happened to both be English teams--and England and Russia aren't exactly on speaking terms. Fans were told to stay away from the nation because they wouldn't be allowed in if they didn't have a visa, even though Russia admitted that it couldn't handle the number of fans that were coming.

So, why exactly was the city allowed to host the final if it wasn't going to be able to process the visas of the supporters? Shouldn't one of the main planning issues been "well, can we get everyone into the city?"
Additionally, the city did not have enough hotel rooms. Fans were told not to come if they did not have somewhere to stay. Some people flew into Belarus and Slovakia and drove into Moscow--not a fun trek. Many stayed on party boats converted to house fans. And the traditional pre-game match for British fans of fish and chips? It cost 50 GBP. Yes. One hundred dollars.

Finally, though, the Kremlin relented and allowed groups of "special people" to enter the county
visa free. And, yes, soccer fans were included. "We have acted like a civilized state," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said of the temporary visa-free regime. "The attitude of a country towards the conditions on which participants in international events may visit it shows how civilized it is.

What a great quote. "We have acted like a civilized state"--it's like admitting you deny freedoms and human rights. "I have acted like a respectable human being" will soon be the new catchphrase of men hitting on women at bars.

And, lastly, the Russian military will be getting a makeover. No, they're not getting new commanders--they're actually getting new uniforms.

Quite an interesting read, actually--and the best part is this quote:
"Thank God the army now understands that image is just as important as technical issues," Valentin Yudashkin says. Yes. Form over function--spoken like a true clothing designer.

building the beautiful game.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Yesterday's Champions League final, contested by Manchester United and Chelsea, was amazing. In fact, the last four have been exceptional matches, even if the rounds preceding them are exercises in sterile soccer. Last year, we
had a goal fest and a near comeback from Liverpool almost as exquisite as their incredible victory in 2005--and Arsenal almost pulled out a victory in the 2006 final, even though they were down a man for 70 minutes.

I'm not going to talk about how I despise both teams who played in yesterday's match--because the game itself was incredible. Both teams opened up and had great chances--and the number of shots that went off the posts made for great dramatics.

ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb said people who consider themselves American sports fans were foolish if they skipped watching yesterday's match, since it was on when nothing else was showing and was two of the world's greatest teams playing in the the world's biggest club soccer match. I couldn't agree more with him. It seems that all of ESPN's biggest names hate the game for no reason--Jim Rome, Scott van Pelt and Colin Cowherd talk so often about how much they hate the sport. I just don't understand how commentators at the world's leading sports conglomerate can hate the world's biggest and most relevant sport.

ESPN/ABC was smart to purchase the rights to the World Cup, Champions League and UEFA tournaments, because the biggest problem with soccer not catching on in the states is the lack of exposure. So many more people would watch the sport if they could see players of the highest caliber playing week-in, week-out. Judging on the conversations I have had based on my kits, I can tell more and more Americans are watching soccer. We can only build on MLS if the general soccer knowledge of Americans rises. I mean, baseball would not grow in England if they only showed English baseball, would it? It's like hoping a sport grows by showing third and fourth level leagues--it simply is not going to inspire kids to play or for people to pay for tickets.

To hear two of my friends who don't really care much about soccer talk about the game yesterday was huge for me--I got excited that they wanted to talk more about soccer afterwards.
And, to hear Michael Wilbon say that if he could go back and cover whatever beat he wished and hearing him say that he would cover international soccer, one has got to think that by continuing to show's the world's premiere players, leagues and cups, the game will only grow, and maybe the US will actually have a shot to win the World Cup by 2022.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

celebrity look-alikes

People often pride themselves on looking like celebrities. Today, we highlight celebrities that look like each other.

First up? Manchester United/Argentina soccer player Carlos Tevez and Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Second? Lil' Wayne and Animal from the Muppets


Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Video Premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

As I said yesterday, things are a bit hectic at the Collective this week. For this week's video, therefore, we'll keep it light.


Keith Olbermann, ladies and gentleman. He'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your waitresses.

Seriously though, every once in a while it is good to see an articulate and measured criticism of the Bush administration. Too often these days we only see cliched phrases like "Bush is stupid," or parting shots like those that any lame duck weathers, and which we see Obama, Clinton, and McCain use just about everyday.

But we at JJ pride ourselves on looking at controversial situations with basic common sense. Not being famous or terribly talented has its worth, you know, and it applies here--we don't have anything to lose by being common-sensical.

For example, although Bush probably could have used his words better, saying that he heard from "people" that Iraq had WMDs is not such a controversial statement. Presidents don't do much investigation themselves. In supervising the executive, they simply have too much to look after. So it's not so outrageous, despite what Olbermann says, that Bush would refer to others' reports. It's what Presidents do on everything.

What is the bigger issue is that the "people" that Bush and his "people" put into power have failed. It is the President's responsibility to avoid people who aren't capable to do their job and serve their country well. So in my opinion, the biggest statement of the ineptitude of the Bush administration is the disgraceful way in which Rumsfeld, Gonzalez and others have served.

It might seem like a minor point, but it's important that when we look at how Bush is criticized we make sure the arguments are real. That Bush gave up Golf is irrelevant. Sort of funny, yes, and also a little pathetic. But irrelevant. That he made critical errors in appointing his inner circle is relevant. It's the sort of thing we need not merely criticize--we must look at ourselves and at the future potential presidents and ask how they would go about appointing people, making decisions, and shaping the world as we know it.

In any case, I hope you enjoy Olbmermann. The guy used to be an ESPN personality...

You can kind of tell that he was heading out to the political television realm. I mean, how could anyone say "Brett Favre" that seriously?

Happy weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I thought this story about a robot conducting the Detroit Symphony was pretty cool. I know. Not really Earth shattering, but interesting.

I also thought these Obama shoes were kind of neat.


That's all for now. Jhuff is en route back to Hawaii, and I'm trying to find a place to live. More soon.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya from here.

Obama shoe photo from here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

quick sunday post

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I know that not a big number of our readership are big English Premier League fans, but I just wanted to give a few of my thoughts on the season, which concluded today.

I am happy that Fulham stayed up. The team--comprised of Americans Dempsey, McBride, Johnson, Bocanegra and Keller-- has most of the American's playing in Europe's best league. It would have been a shame for all of these players to have to play in the Championship next year, but their victory today means that they will be playing with (and against) the big boys next year.

Manchester United deserved the title. One cannot argue with that--they were clearly the best team. The beautiful thing about English soccer is that it's a grind--one result matters as much as the rest, and even if you do well against the big four (which Arsenal consistently do better than any other teams, including the other teams that comprise the big four), you still have to get results against the teams that make up the remaining sixteen spots in the table (which Arsenal consistently does NOT do). We all know bsto and I love Arsenal and despise Manchester United and Chelsea, but these teams found a way to play week-in, week-out. It doesn't hurt that they're willing to spendspendspend and have two world-class players at every position (while Arsenal don't have one at many positions), but such is life.

Chelsea's (soon to be ex?) manager Avram Grant said that he feels that the title should have been decided via a play-off should Chelsea and Manchester be equal on points. Chelsea ended up drawing their final match--so this plea was null--but I believe that this would have stood for everything the title is not. The EPL is a grind, and having a one-off play-off negates the importance of every game played from August to May, which is the core ethic of the league (well, other than revenues).

Grant cited the Italian league, where a play-off is held in the event of a tie--but do we really want the EPL to be built like Serie A...where corruption is rife?

Yes, Manchester clearly had the best team. The interesting thing is that they're behind on their interest payments on the loan that Malcolm Glazer took out to finance his buy-out of the team. Basically, Glazer thought he could have re-financed the terms by now, but because of the global credit crunch, he can't find a lender who will let him re-finance at a more desirable rate. The result? Huge net losses. The team will have to use it's money from winning the EPL and appearing in the Champions League final to pay-off debts.

Betting on future results is what Glazer is doing...but it's risky
. A few years back, Leeds signed a bunch of incredible players and did so by taking out loans based on the the club getting payments from predicted participation in the CL. However, the club did not finish high enough in the EPL and did not do well enough in the CL and subsequently went bankrupt.

Obviously, Manchester United is not going to find itself in this hole, because the EPL is structured around the top four. The fact of the matter is that these four teams are consistently in the top of the table at season's end, so they're consistently getting better payments (and valuable Champions League positions) than the other teams.

However, one must also also remember that were it not for a certain Russian oil billionaire with KGB ties, Chelsea were also going to be bankrupt, on the verge of entering administration, and being dropped into a lower league. Fortunes change quickly, especially with billionaires, but it's important to remember that these billionaires leave just as soon as they come. Once they've got what they wanted, they'll discard old toys in search of new ones. Chelsea ended up $200 million in debt for the third straight year--you've got to ask how long it'll be before Abramovich decides he's sick of pumping money into Chelsea. There's already talk that he wants to buy an American football team, so only time can tell how serious he is about Chelsea.

Arsenal lost one of the players that became sort of a revelation this year--Mathieu Flamini. Flamini left for AC Milan. While this has been covered to death, Flamini said today that he was disappointed by Arsenal's collapse in February and March and their subsequent loss of the EPL title.

Hleb may also be on his way out--to Inter Milan. The sickening part is that, while in Milan in February for the Champions League fixture against AC Milan, Hleb met with representatives of Inter on the night before the game.

Remember Mighty Ducks Two, when the coach went out for ice cream with "the iceland chick" the night before the game? YEAH, something like that.

These two players can moan all they want about wanting to win things, but they need to take that desire and use it for motivation. You can't just walk leave because you don't win trophies.

We have a word for that: quitting.

How can Flamini talk about wanting to win when the club he went to play for is only going to finish fourth in the table...and was knocked out of the Champions League by Arsenal..THE VERY TEAM HE LEFT?

I just don't understand how you can promise to re-sign with a team and then bolt the next day. It's a lack of loyalty and it's quitting--plain and simple. Flamini gave his heart for the team, and if he wants to move on, it's fine. Just be honest.

It's disheartening, because neither of these players lived up to their promise until this year. They didn't come on the cheap, but the manager had faith in them. It's a bit telling of one's character to leave a coach who blindly trusted your ability in order to get a bigger paycheck.


right, then

Friday, May 9, 2008

friday video premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

This Friday's video is Justice's "Stress"

I was kind of surprised to see this video released so soon on the heels of their last single, "DVNO". I was also surprised because the "Stress" video may be the most violent video since the Prodigy's "Smack My B***h Up [warning--this video is extremely not safe for work--NSFW--and you actually have to sign into youtube and verify that you are over 18 in order to watch it (but, I mean, youngsters can just lie about their age, can't they? it seems a bit pointless to ask one to verify age)]"...which was subsequently banned from US airways from being shown before midnight (and, perhaps not surprisingly, the Justice video was shot in the same first-person style as the Prodigy clip)

Before we enter a discourse on the video's meaning, we'd like to remind you (just in case you've been living under a rock) that Justice in one of the planet's hottest bands at the moment. The duo were originally known for their mash-up of Simian's "We Are Your Friends"--which won the award for MTV Europe's 2007 Video of the Year...which Kanye West notoriously rushed the stage for. We covered Kanye's subsequent hiring of So_Me (part of the Ed Banger crew of which Justice are signed to) to direct the "Good Life" video (if you can't beat them, join them, right?).

I called Justice's "D.A.N.C.E." the song of the year last year, and the band keeps rolling on. I thoroughly enjoyed their interview with pitchfork, even if it was awkward thanks to the interviewer (and, for the record, it's Justice, not Eusteece). They're playing all of the big music festivals. Their music was played in an Escalade commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl. Life just doesn't get any better, does it?

Yes, the jackets in the video are pretty BA (they remind me of this Flying Coffin hat), but this is a minor point. With this, "Stress", the band take on the racial tensions in Paris. My only question is: does the music video perpetuate stereotypes of African and Caribbean Frenchmen being violent and part of destructive, angry mobs?

Clearly, the video is not a sarcastic and snarky one--it's not tongue-in-cheek, and it's not funny. Does it further the discussion and make this issue more visible to indie kids worldwide, or does it wrongly vilify disenchanted youth?

Because, honestly, I feel that the band are tapping into a primal urge to destroy out of frustration. When one has no control over his situation--he acts out against his captors (in this case, Paris at large) and tries to literally (and figuratively) destroy it as much as possible to even the playing field.

And, in the above interview, the band play off any sort of musical ties to Christianity. Xavier de Rosnay (the non-mustachioed member of Justice) says that though he is Christian, he sees the cross as a symbol of people coming together--and of the music itself being a marriage of many types of music.

But, one has to wonder if the hooligans wearing jackets adorned with the cross is an attack on the wars of Christianity (or religion at large). Remember, most major religions preach peace, but many times, they have waged wars in order to spread their own version of the gospel (the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition come to mind). Are the band saying that the messages of religion sometimes get skewed and that the followers sometimes lose sight of what they claim to hold true? Or are the band simply using the cross as their brand symbol--wholly devoid of any biblical meaning? Are the boys in the video waging their own crusade against an unholy world which has somehow gone astray? Is Justice trying to distance themselves from the idea that they are a Christitan band?

The video lends itself greatly to interpretation--it makes the viewer step back and ask questions on many levels. Obviously, the first level is the religious one. Second is the international order (the hooligans are primarily minorities--is this symbolic of poorer nations lashing out against stronger ones). The third level of analysis is a national one--racial tension and injustice within national borders. And, lastly, is the individual level--"Do I have the urge to do this myself?".."Does wanting to do this make me a bad person, or does it mean that these urges are perfectly natural?" (you know, "we have seen the monster, and he is us")


You've got to laugh at a band who can laugh at themselves--at 4:50 in the "Stress" video, the band kick in the stereo that is playing their original hit "D.A.N.C.E."--showing that they don't take themselves all that seriously (and that they have a dark side and are not all rainbows, flowers and sunshine).

Who says (electro) rock is dumb?

And one last thing--I'm kind of tired of hearing that Justice are the next Daft Punk. They sound a lot more like the Chemical Brothers than anyone else (I mean, they're more industrial than Daft Punk and are clearly less house than the Daft Punk boys).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

God Bless the Internet...And Nike Soccer Commercials PART II

I hope you all enjoyed Part I of this series, where I think we saw some of Nike's general strategies--that is, using high-tech vs low-tech, going street ball in both play and style, and featuring Ronaldinho all the time.

So for Part II, I'll focus on a specific ad that Nike whipped out before the 2002 World Cup. This was a massively potent ad that transcended not only the soccer world, but also retail in general.

I'm talking about Nike's "Secret Tournament," where Cantona is reduced to his (now common and comfortable) cameo role and reminds me of (a) himself and his usual ballistic Frenchness; (b) Pierluigi Collina's evil brother; and (c) Tom Colicchio from Top Chef.

Here goes:

First and foremost, I'm struck looking back at this video of how it serves as yet another example (alongside the freestyling one I showed in Part I) of Nike using the same ad techniques in soccer and basketball.

Didn't anyone else immediately think of the recent ad for the Nike 25s? Dig this:

Ok, so there's no tournament. But it's essentially the same: Nike takes all their big guns and has them in some sweet venue where we will never get to play, wearing sweet expensive gear that we will never get to wear, and, most importantly, has them playing against each other.

Anyway, moving on.

I'm snooping around and I can't find the original "Secret Tournament" official website. It's really a bummer, because part of what made this whole ad so amazing was the way in which Nike made the Tournament feel like a real tournament that was going on in real time.

They spliced that three minute video into smaller ones, releasing the final commercial showing the "gran finale" last--so you didn't know who was going to win. It felt in some ways like the NCAA tourney.

The "Secret Tournament" website helped deepen the drama, it became sort of like the NCAA Tourney site.

There were also big ads in every soccer magazine and fold out posters that just about every kid I knew who played soccer had up on their locker or in their bedroom. Who wouldn't want a poster of most of the best players in the world?
And everyone had a favorite team based on who their favorite club or country was. Here's a list of the teams, courtesy some bbc site:

Triple Espresso
* Francesco Totti (Italy)
* Thierry Henry (France)
* Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan)

The Untouchables
* Patrick Viera (France)
* Paul Scholes (England)
* Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Holland)

* Sylvain Wiltord (France)
* Lillian Thuram (France)
* Edgar Davids (Holland)

Toros Locos
* Saviola (Argentina)
* Luis Enrique (Spain)
* Freddy Ljungberg (Sweden)

Os Tornados
* Luis Figo (Portugal)
* Ronaldo (Brazil)
* Roberto Carlos (Brazil)

Funk Seoul Brothers
* Denilson (Brazil)
* Ki Hyeon Seol (Korea Republic)
* Ronaldinho (Brazil)

Equipo del Fuego
* Hernan Crespo (Argentina)
* Claudio Lopez (Argentina)
* Gaizka Mendieta (Spain)

Tutto Bene
* Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic)
* Fabio Cannavaro (Italy)
* Rio Ferdinand (England)

You can see that some of the teams (especially near the bottom) were never going to win. I mean, it was kind of predictable that Henry's "Triple Espresso" was going to square off against "Os Tornados," just because those teams had the most high profile stars. Well, high profile except for Nakata, who doesn't seem to fit in. If someone were to ask, "Which one of these three is not like the other?" he'd be the answer.

Also remember that this is 2002, before Ronaldinho wowed the world with these goals against England, and before his move to Barcelona--but even still, he should have replaced Nakata.

In any case, besides the sheer players, there were other important facets that made this commercial so epic.

There was, for example, the premiere of the Nike Vapors cleats. You get a nice look at them when Henry steps on Totti's back to score the Tournament-winning goal. The first Vapors (which apparently have their own Wikipedia page!) weighed 7.0 grams. It was ridiculous how light they were. They helped usher in Nike's weird new lightweight, plastic shoes that were invented to rival the supple (but heavy) kangaroo leather that Adidas used.

I remember first trying on the Vapors and freaking out because it didn't feel like I had a boot on. And I guess that's a good thing if you're a speedster, but for someone with a history of surgeries and no history of speed, they just weren't for me.

Another factor in the commercial was the song. When I found a 45 of the redone "A Little Less Conversation" at the record store the other day I flipped out. Hitting #1 in 20 countries, it was a classic one hit wonder. Here:

Now we could argue about whether or not it would have been as big a hit if it wasn't featured on the Nike commercial (and, later, in Ocean's Eleven). But I have no doubt that its success was completely linked to the commercial. So as I said, the commercial even transcended the realm of retail.

Then again, Nike soccer commercials are expected to have good music, at least ever since the famous one with the Brazilian soccer team from 1998:

Who watches this commercial and doesn't find themselves spending all day singing "Mas Que Nada," going "OOOOOOOO Oariá raiô, Obá Obá Obá"?

Ok but we're getting away from ourselves here. The point is that this "Secret Tournament" commercial managed to transcend the world of advertising. How many times did my friends and I find some place and go, "Man, that would be a sweet place to film a Nike commercial." We literally used to search for cages in Chicago during the summer. No joke.

In the end, there was a "rematch" between "Triple Espresso" and "Os Tornados." Here it is:

We see Cantona's up to his old antics, and I think it's hilarious that it is first to 100. Plus you have to love how Figo turns into Boris from Goldeneye at the end.

These commercials were epic. They made it so it wasn't only about buying the new cleats, or that weird shiny ball with the scorpion on it, or those sleeveless training tops--it was about challenging other groups of three at the beach and the ensuing camaraderie; it was about trying new tricks on the field and defending your honor; and it was about sneaking onto the Northwestern University Varsity field for crazy skillful small-sided games where the white kids played the Haitians, or the Jamaicans played the Sophomores, or my high school played your high school.

Sure these kinds of things would have happened without Nike. But Nike glamorized it all, they upped the stakes.

Hopefully, they made soccer more appealing to the masses. Who knows. Maybe we'll be hailing these commercials' impact years from now, when the US wins its first World Cup with a team full of the country's best athletes--6'6," 4.4 40--athletes who turned down football and basketball for soccer.

Yeah, I know. It's just a commercial. But we can dream, right?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Benson, cont'd

We didn't really have time to write up something beyond just a quick notifier about Cedric Benson's arrest while boating last weekend.

Turns out it was good, because even though Jhuff did put a quick post out on Monday, new information has come out.

To recap, Jhuff and I were immediately suspicious when we heard that Benson was arrested for being drunk while boating in Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas. I don't know how many JJ readers have gone boating, but all our experiences have involved (at least) a six pack. I mean, get real.

But when Benson put out a statement saying that he was treated improperly by officers, I reacted the way I react when any athlete starts protesting their "unjust" treatment when they get caught up in the law. That is, I basically rolled my eyes and wrote Benson off.

I did find some solace in this great Rosenblog post. ("Police pepper-sprayed Benson, a move that seems a little over the top. Police apparently didn't know that the quickest way to get Benson to the ground is simply first contact.")

But this morning I read this piece about one of Benson's friends speaking out on his side. She was on the boat. The Chicago Tibune writes:

There were about 15 people on the boat, including Benson's mother, Jackie, who had spent much of the evening swimming in a part of the lake known as Devil's Cove. Just when the group had decided to head back to shore around 9:30 p.m. and go out to dinner, a patrol boat stopped to conduct a random check.

According to Cartwright, she had consumed one beer and Benson had two drinks.

"I know Cedric and I don't think he was drunk," Cartwright said.

The arrival of LCRA police perturbed Benson because of the frequency of the checks on his 30-foot boat, Cartwright said.

When Benson's boat passed the safety inspection, Cartwright said she and her fiance were surprised the officer then required a sobriety test for Benson.

"We were all like, 'Why?' " she said.

Apparently, Cartwright and her fiance had gone boating with Benson six times previously, and they were pulled over each time. Is it because they've always been raucous? I'm sorry, but I just don't see how crazily drunk Benson could have gotten with his own mother on the boat, before dinner. Besides, even though Benson isn't exactly loved in the Bears locker room, he doesn't have a reputation for drunken tomfoolery, as far as I know.

So the plot thickens.

Considering I know absolutely nothing about this region of Texas, I'm hesitant to pin this on racial profiling or anything conspiratorial.

I would say, though, that we should be equally hesitant to pin all the blame on Benson, because it all just seems so fishy.

Photo from here.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

God Bless the Internet...And Nike Soccer Commercials PART I

This is a post I've been wanting to put together for some time now--best Nike soccer commercial recap--and, thanks to finals, I finally have the spare time I needed.

Let's start from the beginning. This video of Good vs. Evil must have come from the 1994 World Cup, when Nike really announced their presence on a soccer market long ruled by Adidas, Umbro, and Puma. It's funny to see how young Maldini looks, how Patrick Kluivert has such a big role (considering he's fallen so far), and how Nike still relies mostly on the same teams: Manchester, Brazil, and Arsenal, for example.

Also notice how they feature Cantona's typically transcendent style. Dig this video of his classic goal--especially the celebration, where he just kind of stands there and goes, "Yeah, I know. I'm the shyte. What do you want? I'll kill you."

So we see that, even in the early 90s, Nike found a way to weave the players' natural playing personalities along with some crazy high-tech stuff into their commercial (also see how the famous defender Maldini tackles in to save the day, definitely a good thing considering Jorge Campos was, as usual, terribly out of position and sure to be embarrassed).

As Nike progressed through the 90s, they kept their commercials high-tech, and started integrating more moves and tricks. See for example, the Die Hard meets Matrix meets Ocean's Twelve commercial which Nike called "The Mission":

You can see the addition of more freestyle tricks here. Whereas that first video just had Ronaldo doing a rainbow, this has someone (is it Dwight Yorke or Andy Cole, I can't tell) doing a rainbow then skipping a tackle then bicycling. Also see Figo's nasty little Meg, some great lifts by Davids, and just generally more skill all around.

But sometimes Nike went completely low-tech in their videos, as they did when they decided to lean completely on the street-style of soccer.

Oh wait, my bad, that's their freestyle basketball commercial. It's an honest mistake though, because look at how similar the freestyle soccer commercial is (it was probably filmed in the same friggin room):

This might well have been the commercial that inspired Nike to start relying so heavily on the freestyle aspect of soccer not only in their commercials, but also on their website and in their clothing styles.

On their website, they began inviting people to send in videos of their moves, and had people vote on which person's moves were the best. And because all these people knew that they had to wear Nike gear and use a Nike ball to get on their site, it was amazing ground-up advertising. I hope all you business majors are taking notes.

Regarding style, all of a sudden Nike soccer clothes started featuring training styles that looked less like jerseys and more like street-wear. Compare the the clothes/jerseys you see the players from that first video wearing with the capris and baggy shirts that Davids and co. wear. I mean, the clothes in the bball and soccer videos are, really, not so dissimilar.

A lot of this street-soccer stuff came from Nike's bball experience, but a lot of it also came from their sponsoring Brazilians, who come from a world where the "street-soccer stuff" as I've called it is completely normal. And it holds a certain earthy, grassroots appeal--no doubt part of What White People Like about "The Idea of Soccer."

And this also coincided with Nike's obsession with the happy-go-lucky, goofy, (ugly,) and relaxed style of Ronaldinho, who was sold to Barcelona (a Nike team) from PSG before the 2003-2004 season. Ronaldinho became the MJ of Nike soccer, taking over from Ronaldo and eventually getting an entire clothing line--R10--to himself.

Dig how Nike features Ronaldinho in this NikeFreestyle (not just Nike) commercial:

He's just one of the guys, chillin out, having fun. That weird stick figure is kind of creepy, it's true, but it could also represent any one of us there with him--it's sort of like an abstract invitation to join in.

I'll conclude part I here, but just to prove how much of an impact Nike had on soccer, I'll leave you all with what is probably the best YouTube video of freestyle soccer tricks (and has a tight song in the background). Obviously street soccer existed before Nike and would have progressed without it, but there can be no doubt that Nike increased the sex appeal of it all--I doubt there would be thousands of YouTube soccer freestyle videos today without Nike.

So maybe we can blame Nike for all the kids who have nasty moves but no real fitness or field awareness.

Anyway, my favorite part starts at 32 seconds, I hope you enjoy:

Monday, May 5, 2008

bwi--not the airport.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

bsto and I were interested in Cedric Benson getting arrested for allegedly boating under the influence and resisting arrest.

I understand the resisting arrest charge--but boating while intoxicated? I am vehemently against operating heavy machinery while inebriated, however, I know what goes on at places like Martha's Vineyard and at private beaches and lakes across the country:

Drunken boating.

Not to be ridiculous, but why is Benson singled out? Are there a lot of drunk boating arrests yearly, or is this something that one gets charged with? We firmly feel that further investigation into just why Mr. Benson was arrested needs to be done

Friday, May 2, 2008

friday video premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

This week's Friday Video Premiere is the Kidz in the Hall's "Driving Down the Block"

Yeah, they still reference hip-hop greats like A Tribe Called Quest ("my 'Low End Theory' tape in/playin' number six/ 'Show Business' is my s..."), but this is quite a departure from their first hit single, "Wheelz Fall Off ('06 'Til)"

You've got to say that the influence of fellow Chi-Town crew the Cool Kids had a lot to do with the sound of "Driving Down the Block"...but "Driving Down the Block" had me wondering if the song was a snipe at this sort of slowed down (almost "twisted and screwed") that the Cool Kids and Clipse have been popularizing as of late.

Cool Kids "I (Mikey) Rock"

Cool Kids "Black Mags"

The Cool Kids often talk about their gear and swag ("I got this 89-90, Pistons champ flat/ bill black starter cap with the hologram tags"..."Seat, handlebar grips, is the same as my Nike"..." Aw you judging me dog/Please, you shop at the mall/Me I shop at boutiques, limited quantity sneaks/Where do these quantities be? Maybe they all on my feet"). On "Driving Down the Block", Kidz in the Hall rap: "I'm so damn clean/Polo rugby/ Jordan 16s"

I don't know if there's beef, but I know this for sure: if you're from Chicago, you make sure everybody knows it.

Oh, wait: the Cool Kids rock that 89-90 Pistons champ flat bill black starter cap with the hologram tags. Do they not know of the epic battles that the Bulls had with the Pistons in the '80s?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Holocaust Remembrance Week III--"Holocaust"?

Where we're running a series of posts in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year is on Friday, May 2.

Earlier today I was approached by a JJ reader who wanted me to flesh out some of the things I had said on Monday's Holocaust post, especially regarding the Holocaust's position alongside other historical genocides.

Look. This is an exceedingly touchy subject. Obviously the entire Holocaust is, but what makes this so sensitive is that there are survivors alive today who I fear would feel disrespected by my conclusion. Now that we're some 60 years beyond the Holocaust, it's just too easy to be casual and flippant when comparing the Holocaust to other genocides.

This is why I said that nobody should ever say that any genocide is worse than another. It elevates the status of one people's lives above that of another country. I don't care how a people are massacred. Whether millions are killed by gas or by machete is irrelevant to me--a human life is a human life. And when they are wasted according to some bogus racial ideology it makes their deaths more iniquitous than, perhaps, a carjacking murder, but no Tutsi's death is/was better or worse than a Jew's.

And for that matter, I'm not so interested in how many are murdered. I have trouble imagining any collection of corpses larger than maybe 300. It becomes hazy to me. So whether it's one million or six million, why does it matter? Is the Rwandan genocide really 5 million bodies less appalling than the Holocaust?

Let's be perfectly straightforward here. The definition of the word "Holocaust" (despite how I and most people use it) does not necessarily include the death of 6 million Jews at the hands of Nazi Germany.

A "Holocaust" is a massive conflagration that results in utter destruction.

Really, then, it's a symbolic word--not unlike using the phrase "ethnic cleansing" to refer to the deaths in Bosnia in the 1990s.

And to a certain extent, one could argue that it is unfair to bestow the term Holocaust only on to the Jewish genocide. Well, I don't know about that. While I don't believe that the Holocaust can be elevated above other genocides, I do think that it can be distinguished from them. Indeed, each and every one of history's genocide's has distinct and unique characteristics.

I alluded a bit to what separates the Holocaust from other 20th century genocides on Monday. But here's what doesn't separate the Holocaust: the fact that a ridiculous amount of people were murdered in cold blood and the murder was officially sanctioned and carried out by the highest powers in government.

Also, that the idea of a "Jewish plague" (so well explained by Hitler in his Mein Kampf, right) was pervasive in the very foundation of Nazi Germany is not unique. The main justification for most of the other 20th century genocides, as far as I understand them, also involved "cleaning" a country of its "parasites."

I think what does separate the Nazi version, however, is that it occurred in such a large and Western state. This is what's so shocking about the Holocaust. While many people have (partly correct) notions of Africa and Southeast Asia as less educated and therefore closer to barbarism, this was Germany! Home of some of the world's greatest philosophers and artists and musicians and thinkers.

And the Holocaust also received a large amount of scrutiny after the fact thanks to the testimonies of perpetrators at the Nuremberg Trials and the Eichmann Trial, and thanks to the testimonies of survivors like Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel who wrote about their experiences.

I have yet to read testimonies of the other 20th century genocides that appear on the New York Times bestseller list.

But again, this is not to say that the Holocaust is at all "worse" than other genocides.

Here's what I'll conclude. Because of its scope and enormity, because of its pseudo-intellectual basis, because of its highly structured execution, the Holocaust is probably the most impressive genocide of the 20th century. But isn't killing one million Tutsis in 100 days "impressive"???

Ugh, this makes me sick.

It all comes down to my original point: that any discussion of genocide comparison is grotesque and inappropriate. I tried, really. The victims' deaths deserve to be honored and studied so that we and future generations don't allow their deaths to have been in vain--we must learn so we can prevent it from happening again.

Today's Holocaust art is a poem, much different from the painting I posted yesterday.

The poem is "Babi Yar" by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (who I saw read once here in DC, and he was so animated and passionate and emotional when he read, it was truly beautiful...even if I could hardly understand the words through his thick Russian accent). It is about the massacre there, which I referred to in yesterday's discussion of the Einsatzgruppen.

Translated by Benjamin Okopnik, 10/96

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o'er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself. *1*
The Philistines betrayed me - and now judge.
I'm in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I'm persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok *2*
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I'm thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of "Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!"
My mother's being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The "Union of the Russian People!"

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I'm in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other's eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed - very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

-"They come!"

-"No, fear not - those are sounds
Of spring itself. She's coming soon.
Quickly, your lips!"

-"They break the door!"

-"No, river ice is breaking..."

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I'm every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May "Internationale" thunder and ring *3*
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that's blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that's corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!



1 - Alfred Dreyfus was a French officer, unfairly dismissed from service in 1894 due to trumped-up charges prompted by anti- Semitism.

2 - Belostok: the site of the first and most violent pogroms, the Russian version of KristallNacht.

3 - "Internationale": The Soviet national anthem.

Photos by bbc and amazon.