Posts from June, 2008
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you’d think in washington, d.c. the hotest ticket in town would be some kind of political event, or maybe that tiger woods golf tourney happening out in bethesda next weekend.
but with approval ratings in the toilet (congress is at 19%, the president at 29%) and tiger on his back with a bum knee … the hottest ticket in the district this summer (hands down) is the visit of super-fantastic-megariffic-star david “bend it like” beckham to our small corner of the footballing world.
his trip to d.c. last year was a circus … and one which the lady sparkler and i opted to watch on the telly instead of braving the soccer-mom driven mania. this year was sure to be no different and — through a couple of tickets t.l.s. scored from work — we got to see it up close and personal.
i’m not exactly a stranger to the beguiling charm of the english flavour of football (or “footy” as the lady sparkler has taken to calling it…) but the national obsession with the chiseled greatness that is mr. beckham has me more than a little puzzled.
sure, i can understand 12 year-old girls screaming … and MAYBE we can extend that to their 40 year-old moms. but, the place was packed with 25-35 year old men with mint-edition beckham branded l.a. galaxy unis … shouting out adulation, and snapping pics. and remember, this is d.c. — it’s not exactly a home game for a team from los angeles.
i’m a 25-35 year old male and, while i am not so ego-tastic to speak for a whole decade of humans, i must say that i remember far more lows in “the david’s” career (thrown out of 1998 World Cup, lackluster showing in 2002 and 2006 Cups, flipping off fans at Euro 2000, benchings by two of the greatest coaches of this age) than i remember his highs.
so while i respect david for his 100+ appearances for the national team, and for his collection of early club championships — that’s enough for me to hope he does well in the States, but not enough to drop $70 on an spanking new beckham jersey and scream at him like a little girl.
speaking of which, the funniest moment of the day was shortly after we arrived with some of the lady sparkler’s co-workers … we were poking fun of the whole scene, when someone from two rows back, right behind out heads, shouted “DAVID, I LOVE YOU!”
unfortunately, we just *lost* it.
oh, right. the game. d.c. crushed them. beckham looked miserable (as a proper brit should, playing footy .. during the summer .. in 98-degree weather .. in an american swamp).
now, the great thing about sports is the (near) universal appreciation of the stories behind the competition … so long as you know where to look.
for every $15-million slugger that dopes his way to the home run record, there is a $600,000 baller for the Celtics who overcomes homelessness on the way to win a NBA championship. for every perfectly-formed sprinter turned out by the u.s. track and field machine, there is a 41 year-old South African dissident who overcomes two shattered knees to break a world record at the World Pacific Games.
never has this been more apparent, that this morning when we went to the u.s.a. trials for the homeless world cup (which is exactly what it sounds like: a (soccer) world cup where all the competitors are homeless).
the tournament was started in 2001 by some activists for the homeless as a way to inspire the homeless to make positive life changes, and some 70% of past participants have gotten off the streets for good.
the u.s. team is being selected this weekend, with a tournament down by the old convention center. city teams from across the u.s. are participating (atlanta, charlotte, minneapolis, new york, the district, austin, etc) with the the best players from each squad being selected for the trip to Melbourne.
there weren’t many people in the crowd for the games we watched, but it was still an incredible experience. the talent and skill were way beyond what we were expecting, and it was pretty easy to see that the competitors were having the time of their life.
if any of this is sounding interesting, the story of 6 participants in the 2006 Homeless World Cup has been turned into a documentary called kicking it (in theatres now). we’ll be there later this week …
just listening to npr this morning — my adoring wife’s daily ritual — makes a case for the pending apocalypse that’s at least as good as the case for increasing domestic oil production.
let’s run through the major topics addressed as i refused to get out of bed this morning, hoping the world wouldn’t notice my absence … we’ve got:
… and, lest we forget, people are killing each other in iraq, afghanistan, israel/palestine, and (it seems) most of sub-saharan africa and south asia — not to mention drug wars in central and south america.
add this to what you and i already know:
…and what al gore (the guy who invented the interweb) has told us:
… and we’ve pretty well slept with the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and possibly tried to steal their girlfriends. we’ve got conquest, war and famine all sorts of angry. turns out there is even a good, old fashioned plague (locusts in massachusetts) which, in other news, can’t be a good omen for the democratic party.
i was talking to a friend of mine about this “crazy like a fox” idea at lunch today, and it turns out that i am not the only one stockpiling water, duck tape and plastic sheeting. both abcnews and the associated press have come to similar conclusions … and both in the last month.
now, looking at my own reaction — and running through what i remember of the five stages of grief — i have either skipped three stages (straight to depression) or am still in denial. actually, considering i have blacklisted all sources of news from my daily existence (npr, bbc, washington post, even those metro tabloids) i think i’m clearly in “kathleen harris running for public office”-level denial.
that leaves anger (which’ll be easy!), bargaining, depression (that’s easy too!) and then acceptance. of course, all four together might be hard to get through by the time we turn into nothingness, like, tomorrow.
p.s. if you are planning on being raptured, now would be a good time.
the red sox have won twice in four years. the patriots blew their chance to be a perfect 19-0. (oh, btw, i like all teams in new england *except* for the patriots.) the revolution lost their fourth major league soccer title game in six years. (oh, the revs … *hate* the revs, too.) and, the boston celtics just won their first championship in 22 years.
now, i don’t want to say that the culture of new england has changed … but it has, so i guess that phrase was an empty blogging device.
my father and i talked after the celtics won game four, in los angeles, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best of 7 series.
if this was 2001 — with the red sox in an 80+ year drought and the celtics in a 15 year skid — new englanders would be talking in hushed tones about how the lakers were a great team who were the odds on favorites to come back and win, especially knowing *our* (ie. new england’s) luck.
but, you throw three super bowl rings and two world series trophies into the mix, and these crazy yanks get down right cocky.
talking to my father that night, he guaranteed — OUTLOUD! — that the celtics were going to win the championship, and odds-on it was going to happen in five games. needless to say, given my comparative old age and experience, i was looking for any piece of wood available to knock on.
sure enough … my boy was right. he wiffed on the number of games — it was six not five — but a championship none-the-less.
and all was well in beantown. again.
so, when the n.s.o. had to discount tickets to their production because they weren’t selling — trouble selling a russian opera, who’s heard of such a thing?!? — we grabbed us some $25 tickets like the materialistic capitalist scum that we are.
the production was sublime. eugene onegin — or ??????? ?????? for those people who took six semesters of russian that they don’t use and feel the need to show off to justify the time, pain and expense — is a tchaikovsky adaptation (the nutcracker guy did some opera, too) of a pushkin poetry classic.
unlike the awful sanitized version of tchaikovsky’s swan lake — the one where the swan lives — eugene does bad things he actually pays for it. (the swan lives?!? really people, are we so devoid of vertebrae that every story has to have a happy ending?)
actually, onegin’s demise is the story of russia itself: men behave like twits, women get royally screwed, men realize their error, women quickly marry the next guy they find (ie. before he can be a twit and, thereby, restart the opera).
of course, this story arch serves as a stark contrast the classic story of america, where man screws up for 10 minutes, covers it up for 10 minutes, and then apologizes for 10 minutes.
with this as background, it’s not hard to believe that russia has created great opera, while all we’ve managed to pull off has been “mad about you” and bill clinton’s life story.
now, we weren’t exacty backing hillary in this horse race (tho admittedly we’d have voted for her as the nominee) but, as late april turned to mid may turned to early june, our patience with hillary’s mathematical chances to secure the nomination started to wear a bit thin.
once it became clear that the her only chance for nomination rested on convincing superdelagates to vote against their constituencies, i (for one) started to flip out … ’cause overruling the populace isn’t something *we* do, that’s something the opposition does.
now, i’ll give hillary mad props for toning down her rhetoric as this dragged on … but the notion that her supporters would threaten to boycott the general election (bad form) or vote for McCain (worse) because of how “poorly” they/hillary were treated?!?
the view from here was that hillary was giving just as much as she was getting … and not necessarily in that order. actually, our “insider” circles were *rife* with tales of hillary supporters linguistically kneecapping fellow party members with threats of reprisals if they took the “wrong” side and she pulled off the win in extr innings.
it is the very peak of sad that, at the time we should all be celebrating *whichever* pioneering nominee came out on top, we are instead debating recriminations and writing bitter blog posts.
the stadium is very, well, washington dc … it’s beautiful, but concrete, but monumental, but sort of industrial. as far as i can tell, there is not a bad seat in the house, and everything feels close to the field.
but all of this misses the point … which, oddly enough, is the food.
the nats signed contracts with 10+ local independent businesses, including ben’s chili bowl, giffords’ ice cream, five guys hamburgers, red hot and blue barbecue, mayorga coffee, capitol city brew, and hard times chili. that’s a season full of grub, without going back to the same trough twice.
oh, for what it’s worth, the nats lost. again. they kept it close though, albeit 0-0, until san francisco’s seven hitter whacked a grand slam in the eighth. after that, it as business as usual.