Archive: sports

I Volunteer With Inner-City Kids Because It’s The Only Place I Can Talk About Soccer

Why I "give back" to my community.

This Spring wrapped another fantastic semester volunteering with the Young Storytellers Foundation. YSF is a charity organization in Los Angeles where failing actors, writers and musicians work with inner-city kids in screenwriting. Over the course of ten weeks, students develop a five-page script. At the end of the semester, their work is performed by actors in front of the entire school. It’s a rewarding, challenging and fun program for students and mentors. It’s also the only place in L.A. where I can have in-depth conversations about soccer.

 

I look forward to my weekly-YSF session with glee. I come prepared with my notebook, laptop and updated scoreboard from La Liga. I have to keep my soccer fanaticism a secret all week, but when I volunteer with kids in L.A. I can finally have a meaningful debate over Lionel Messi being better than Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

No one at work appreciates my opinions on Manchester United’s recent match with Everton. But if Chicharito has a good game and I’m volunteering with kids in L.A.? Oh man, it’s on! We go to war over the Mexican National Team. Whether Dos Santos will rediscover his game in time for the next round of World Cup qualifying. If Ochoa is the best keeper in Mexico. The best games of Rafa Marquez. These things make me sound like I’m from another planet when I talk about them at work. But with your average 8-year-old in Los Angeles? It’s my ticket to the clubhouse.

 

It’s important to volunteer with your spare time. It helps enhance your local community and allows you to connect with new groups of people. That said, I volunteer for the entirely selfish reason of fighting about match-fixing in Italian football.

 

The only other place to engage such a conversation is the Internet, but I’ll get crushed in debates with those losers. The kids I volunteer with aren’t allowed to have smart phones at school and I come prepared. Little Pablo might say something like, “My favorite player on Barcelona is Pique.” And then, bam, I destroy him with a statistical analysis of Pique’s recent performance. “Oh yeah? Well he conceded five corner kicks and picked up a yellow card against Valencia. Is he your favorite player now?”

 

The joke is on me when Pablo comes back with, “Considering he lead Barcelona to back-to-back La Liga titles and manned the back-line in the World Cup and Euros, yeah, he’s pretty good.”

 

It’s only around the kids during my volunteer sessions that it’s perfectly normal to have my walls covered in English Premier League posters. When I wear soccer jerseys to work, I get a lecture. When I wear them to YSF, I get a high-five. When I show-off my face paint at work, I’m called retarded. At school, I compare my war paint to the young writers. My girlfriend keeps telling me to grow up, but my buddies at school consider me the coolest guy to pretend to be in fifth grade.

 

We’re midway through World Cup qualifying, with the grand tournament slated for next summer. It’s important to have these debates any way you can and I’m lucky enough to find classrooms full of children who validate my opinions. Next time you volunteer, I recommend you too try and find ways for your time to give back to you.

Do We Really Need the Riot Fence For the Women’s World Cup?

As one of a small collection of die-hard American soccer fans, I strongly support the U.S. Women’s National Team in pursuit of the Women’s World Cup trophy. I remember Brandi Chastain sending in the tournament-winning goal in ’99 and followed their early oust in the ’03 and ’07 tournaments. But those riot fences behind the goals. Really?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for an equal tournament for the female players as the men. And soccer fans should be just as passionate for their country regardless the gender of the competitors. But doesn’t it seem a wee bit excessive to have the women’s tournament surrounded by a forty-foot tall barbed wire-topped barrier used to stop thousands of violent maniacs lighting fires in the stands?

What kind of rioters are we expecting for the Ivory Coast versus Sweden Women’s World Cup match after all? A bunch of Swedish lesbian biker chick women’s soccer fans ready to tear the place apart if their blonde beauties fall in the group stage? Won’t these behemoths be able to scale the fence on their own accord?

Maybe it’s to keep out the thousands of young girls who are there to support their role models. A zombie virus could break out, thus turning these children into an army of crazy undead monsters hell-bent on eating women’s soccer star brains. Protection would then be warranted.

There are riots in Greece right now over the austerity measures. Tens of thousands of Greek youths are striking because they don’t want their retirement age to be raised to the ripe old age of fifty-five, or whatever their dream deal is. Maybe they want to go to Germany (not sure how since the Greece airport employees are kicking back on the beach right now during their strike), and go ape-shit crazy at a women’s soccer match. Read more

Americans Saying America is The Best Country is The Same As Loud, Fat Sports Fans Saying Their Home Team is The Best

Many people are quick to label America the best country in the world, and there was something about this grand proclamation that struck a cord that I finally placed. It is exactly when loser fans of high-spending winning teams say that their team is the best in the world, yet the fans themselves have never done anything in their lives but cheer on real winners.

America might be the Yankees, Celtics and Steelers, but Americans are the fans of the Yankees, Celtics and Steelers. A bunch of loud and overweight chest-thumping losers who failed to live up to the potential of top players on the field. Instead, we question the decisions of leaders and pick fights with rivals. Read more

Football Was Better Back When Doctors Thought Concussions Were Just a Case of the Head Dizzies

It seems like every NFL team this season has been devastated by injuries. Games are long enough without trainers insisting that players stay down after a hit until they remember what team they play for. Linebackers are getting bigger and the repositioning of the ref from behind the defensive line has opened up the field to more spine-crushing helmet-first hits that we all love until someone gets hurt and we have endure more commercials. The solution doesn’t lie in better pads, more restrictions on hits or harsher penalties. The real answer would be to take science and medicine a few steps backwards and go back to the days when no one knew what a concussion was.

If there’s anyone that needs to be taken off their high horse, it’s got to be doctors. Who are they to determine that football players who get hit in the head need time to recover? Certainly not football fans. Didn’t they ever read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? This book proves over and over again that the more time your brain has to process things, the worse it will perform. We need to get back to the days when an injured quarterback would have to get up after a punishing hit and simply let his animal instincts take over.

All sports on a whole, but definitely football in particular, were much more enjoyable when doctors thought concussions were just a case of the “Head dizzies,” “Skull leaks” or “Brain Ouches.”

What is a little rest going to solve anyway? If Drew Brees had his face implanted on the turf and it killed a few brain cells, what difference is it going to make whether he sits for a few plays rather than a few games? I have fantasy points to worry about, and I’m not about to let them go to waste because he’s whining about a little headache. Hey, Doctors of America, it’s called Tylenol.

The babying of football players has dangerous implications of weakening football fans, which exposes us to terrorism and immigrants somehow. We want the hits to be more violent and we want the players to get bigger and stronger. We want helmet-to-helmet contact that echoes in the away team’s stadium. The only way we’re going to get there is to go back into denial that there is no such thing as long-lasting brain damage.

How hard can this be? We already have textbooks saying that evolution is a myth and most Americans still believe that the entire world was created by an invisible man in the sky. Is it that much of a leap of the imagination to believe that getting your head driven into the turf compresses your spine like an accordion to make brain waves travel faster?

Sure you can make the argument that a higher number of concussions decreases players’ life spans, but do you honestly think that any of these guys want to live past the age of fifty? More concussions equals more hot chicks, as everyone who has ever seen a movie with jocks knows, so where’s that statistic? Why would any of these running backs want to live until they’re seventy, when every single bone, muscle and joint creaks with excruciating pain? On the other hand, we can spread the word that concussions are a myth and these guys can go back to playing all the football we love until they can’t walk anymore. They’ll sire a few more future starting linesman, then continue entertaining the masses as the jolly retarded guy with a half-working brain, then pass away peacefully at the ripe age of thirty-six.

In fact, that could be a new segment on those boring panel NFL preview and highlights shows. Instead of just analyzing the same game over and over and getting the same rote predictions, why not bring on a retired player who has suffered between forty and fifty “concussions” and just let him talk for a half hour. I’m sure it will be much more amusing than any commentary Shannon Sharpe can provide. The NFL Network could fill a majority of its programming by simply filming people who have taken many shots to the head. This is what I like to call a pension.

Football is supposed to be a violent sport and we need to stop letting doctors getting in the way. If our favorite sport is going to return to its glory days of brutes running haphazardly through mud and snow then that’s where our understanding of brain matter must return as well.

CBS Should Advertise Tiger Woods’ Masters Return Like a Maury Povich Episode

Throughout the NCAA tournament, I have been barraged by the same advertisements to the point where I can rip my shirt off to reveal Bags Fly Free better than the Southwest guys. The ads that infuriate me the most, however, are the teasers for the Masters on CBS. They are frustrating not because of their frequency or annoying campiness, but because of the wasted potential for how cool those ads could have been.

CBS is sticking with their mainstay of crappy harp music that makes you feel like you’re in an elevator at an old person’s home while they have wide shots of nature and khakis. By the way, do you think that the world’s top harpists compete to have their song on the Masters commercial? It’s the harp version of indie rock bands from Brooklyn trying to be in the background of makeout scene on Gray’s Anatomy.

Imagine how great these ads could be if they played up the event the way that everyone wants the event to be played up. The only reason that non-golf fanatics are watching The Masters is because they want to see Tiger returning to play, so why doesn’t CBS play into this fact? Yeah they have had a couple shots of Tiger putting in past years, but wouldn’t it be great if they used the same style they use in a Maury Povich ad as a way to plug The Masters?

You could have those extreme black and white closeups cutting between an evil Tiger Woods and his teary-eyed wife (try and get her to Southern accent it up by the way). You can go as rednecky as you want with your title, starting trashy with “My husband has nine girlfriends” or go for a nice pun like “9 Holes Other Than Your Wife’s.”

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You need to have the cliffhanger in the ad where Tiger Woods says, “I only love you,” to his wife, but then you show that one of his girlfriends is back stage and someone could be pregnant, bam, you now have The Masters cross promoted with a DNA test episode (always strong ratings). CBS will get nowhere keeping The Masters classy and aiming at an older demographic. With unemployment soaring, they need to combine their coverage with daytime talk shows immediately.

We need bleep-filled ads, overweight exes fighting over a ratty looking guy with a goatee and a bouncer trying to keep these behemoths apart. Then, and only then, will I watch golf. It will also finally be a true situation where the Masters will be an event unlike any other.

No One Knows How To Count Down A Sports Clock Correctly

This has been a serious pet peeve of mine going on two decades now, and I don’t know where I could send an angry letter regarding this matter. Ideally, this blog post will go so viral that it will never be an issue again, but seriously, can we all, as a public, learn how to correctly count down a clock at a sporting event?

Whenever anyone counts down a clock – especially one that shows tenths of seconds – everyone is always a full second ahead. I can no longer take the awkward moment of silence when the entire stadium has counted down to zero, but there is still a full second left in the game. It’s maddening, does this really not irk anyone else?
Here is the problem: people only count down the first number and don’t take the tenths of seconds into account. Usually when there is ten seconds left in a game, the countdown begins, but that’s also when the clock is broken down into fractions of seconds.

Yell 3 here, not two.

This leads people to chant the number five as soon as they see the big number five, but they ignore the fact that they’re saying five when the real time is 5.9 seconds. This is actually six seconds. As soon as the clock changes to 5.9, instead of yelling five, everyone should yell six. Yet every time I yell this logic out at Madison Square Garden, no one does anything about it.

Awkwardness ensues

This is despite the fact that the same problem continues to occur at every single basketball game played every day. When the clock gets down to two, one, zero, everyone is off by a full second. All due to the fact that when the clock flips to 2.9, everyone is yelling two instead of three.
Because of this, there is the numbingly awkward pattern of people counting down, “Three…two…one…” and when they get to zero, there is no buzzer. They have to wait that extra second, which causes a lot of people to either yell the word, “Zero,” make a buzzing sound themselves, or just stand awkwardly with no idea what has happened to their universe. If we could all agree on counting the number three when the clock shows 2.9, the buzzer would ring when it is supposed to and we wouldn’t have this problem as a society any longer.

I’d Be A Great Basketball Player For 1952

The 1952 version of Wii basketball champs

The 1952 version of Wii basketball champs

I really wish I could play basketball, but it seems like the only options for games are the six-foot-tall monsters who just missed the draft, or the Asian foreign exchange students who couldn’t get into the badminton game. Essentially there is no middle class in pickup basketball games.

And it’s really frustrating, because that’s exactly where my skills lie. I have no natural talent, but I’m not a beginner. I know how to shoot the ball and take a dive and argue when no one can remember the score, but any sort of cutting into the paint or driving to the bucket are hopeless.

Basically, I would be an incredible basketball player if it were the early-1950s. I would be the Michael Jordan of 1950s basketball. For starters I would have revolutionized the game with my innovative above-hand shot. People would have no idea how to defend that. Decades of knocking the ball out of the hand of the underhand-shooter would be thwarted and I’d score left and right.

Until the day that someone in a black neighborhood said, “Let me give basketball a try,” I would dominate. I’m not saying that all black people play basketball. What I’m saying is that all black people play basketball better than me.

But if it were 1952, I could be the captain and star of the Sterling Cooper company basketball team. I could knock-up Peggy Olsen just by performing a dominating lay up while Don Draper took me over to his new firm. I’d languish on every other Sterling Cooper company team, namely the baseball and hat-wearing teams, but for basketball I would easily lead them to a Chelsea Piers trophy.


Which Gym Is Right For Me? Flow Chart


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Why Going to Dodger Games is Like Miranda's Dilema in the Sex and the City Movie

Sold out not for NLCS but to do a "gnarly wave." Fucking LA people

Sold out not for NLCS but to do a "gnarly wave." Fucking LA people

Out of the 18-or-so stadiums I’ve had the chance to visit (that comes off more pathetic than accomplished), there isn’t one that comes close to Dodger Stadium’s disparity between how much I enjoy it and how much I hate it.

This is an awful analogy because not only do I have to reveal that I saw the Sex and the City movie, but I have to reference it in a logical argument about baseball stadiums. But every time I weigh the good and bad sides about going to a game, I have that same plus-minus list that Miranda makes about whether to forgive the cheating baby-daddy/husband-Jew-bar guy and meet him on the bridge.

On the plus side, when I’m at Dodger Stadium, I really enjoy myself. We’ve had good times together in a classic, laid-back, California sort of way. There’s a lot of happy memories that we have together. We’ll always have the beach ball and the wave. An awesome 2009 season loaded with walk-offs and the stadium itself is fantastic.

As in, once you’re in your seat and watching the game, Dodger Stadium is one of the best in baseball. It’s now the third-oldest stadium in the Majors, behind Wrigley and Fenway, and it’s rare that you find any of that mid-Century architecture in all sports, let alone baseball with all its cookie-cutter Camden Yards knockoffs. I love the pastel seats and the sightlines from anywhere are great. No matter where you sit, you can see the entire play.

Plus when you’re behind the plate, you’ve got Elysian Park and the San Gabriels in the distance. You get a perfect California sunset, warm weather year-round and this year’s great team. All-in-all, the experience itself is one of the best in baseball.

But then Dodger Stadium abuses that trust that we’ve built up and the negatives start piling up (let’s throw a basic chemistry reference into an awful joke: Dodger Stadium has more negatives than a carpet’s charged ions in the winter, am I right people?).

It’s as if because the stadium is so great, everything else has to be awful. We can start with the $15 parking fee, which is almost three times more than I paid for the individual ticket in my season ticket package. And if you don’t want to park in the stadium lot, try taking public trans– oh, that’s right, there is no public transportation to the stadium.

Because there is no bus or subway (there was a free bus last year from Union Station but it took ten times longer because you had to go to Union Station, wait for the bus, then sit in the same traffic as the cars), so you never have the fans gathering and the anticipation building as you pick up passengers en route to the game. Nothing beats the packed 4 train with energy building as you emerge out of the tunnel before 161st Street. For the Dodgers, you pay $15 for parking then walk a mile through multiple lots hoping that the entrance is on the same elevation as your parking spot. Or you can try biking up three massive hills.

Plus, Dodger Stadium is one of the only ones that doesn’t let you move around the stadium. Your ticket is only good for the section that you bought. Which – from a rich person’s perspective – makes perfect sense. From my $10/hour perspective not so much. Especially when the entire stadium is empty for innings one through three and seven through nine and all those juicy seats are begging for people to move down for the late innings.

How about, instead of pricing by section, you price by people who care about the game? Dodger fans are the worst. The loudest booing and cheering that you hear is for the success and failure of the wave. If the ump makes the wrong call at a play-at-the-plate and the Dodgers lose, the fans might grumble a little bit. But if someone accidentally hits the beach ball towards the usher who pops it, that’s the angriest booing you’ll hear on this side of the Los Angeles River.

So every time one my weekday games comes up, I have to do that constant fight in my head. I love baseball, the Dodgers are great this year, and the stadium is classic. But do I want to fight an hour across town from Santa Monica to Echo Park, pay an extra $15 to park or walk from Sunset, then endure some of the stupidest wave-crazed baseball fans in the Majors? Is this love? Is this what I married and had a love-child with the Dodgers for? I feel you Miranda. Do you meet the guy on the bridge? I feel you.

But that’s Dodger Stadium: one of the best stadiums in the majors with the worst accessibility and the least-passionate fans. So do you meet the Dodgers at the Brooklyn Bridge or not?

U.S.A. Soccer Wins When They Have Height and Cold Weather Advantage

Those inches matter. Height, I mean height.

Those inches matter. Height, I mean height.

Incredible game today, U.S. Soccer beat Spain 2-0 in the Confederations Cup semi-final. The play wasn’t as dominating as the final score – unlike other great games like the 2007 Gold Cup final against Mexico and the 2002 World Cup game against Germany – but just as euphoric.

So why do we suddenly show up at beat Spain after getting our asses handed to us by Brazil and Italy? All the columnists are writing about how we played with confidence and aggression to make the difference, but I want to float a theory that we won for two reasons:

We’re taller than Spain and Mexico’s forwards and we can beat any warm-weather team if it’s cold when the game starts.

The height thing makes the most sense. All our players are American, which means that they watch and probably played a lot more basketball than any other country. They’re athletes and probably played many sports when they were growing up, and height is valued in hoops, so they kept getting in more games and getting more fit, while at the same time their soccer skills were excelling.

Look at the heights of Spain’s best midis and forwards. Xavi, David Villa, Mata and Ferndando Torres are 5’7″, 5’9″, 5’7″ and 6’1″. So if a defender plays tight, there’s no way – regardless of how skilled they are – that they can win a header. Gooch is 6’5″, Bocanegra is 6′, DeMerit 6’1″ and Michael Bradley is 6’2″.

The numbers against Mexico – with the exception of Marquez, who is chronically injured – are just as noticeable.

So if the States can get a goal (or two) like they did today and sit back on defense. Yes, they’ll be under threat, and odds-wise, they’ll probably surrender a goal or two, but in terms of serving the ball into the box, those few inches go a long way (and, yes, that’s what she said).

Italy and Brazil are taller teams. I don’t think that this height advantage is given enough credit, but I can’t seem to think of a better explanation for why the U.S. can beat Spain by two and lose by three to both Italy and Brazil.

The other reasoning would be that the U.S. is simply a cold-weather team. Today’s game was barely above freezing when they started play. But even the North parts of Spain – like Bilbao – are still semi-tropical. The U.S. uses their crap-weather locations as distinct home field advantages when they play teams from the Caribbean.

The U.S. often plays World Cup qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio in February against Mexico when there are snow drifts and temperatures well below freezing. So why should it come to that much of a surprise when the game-time temperature in South Africa is under forty degrees and they have a strong game against Mediterranean Spain?

I don’t want to take anything away from the United States’ performance, but it seems as though with every other sport, commentators look for outside advantages that underdogs need to exploit. Do you really think South Africa would be in the semi’s if they didn’t have the homefield advantage? They wouldn’t be in the tournament if they weren’t even hosts. They can barely qualify for the African Cup of Nations, and they’re one of like three teams not torn apart by Civil War in their country.

So if the U.S. is playing in the cold against a team that relies on a lot of 5’7″, 5’8″, 5’9″ players, don’t overlook them

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