Monday, September 29, 2003

WOMEN'S WORLD CUP GROUP PLAY WRAPUP: Let us get down to the--how you say--bress ticks:

THE UNITED STATES is playing really well. Abby Wambach remains the Shaq of women's soccer: bigger than anyone else, gifted, tendency to dog it, almost impossible to beat when motivated. And she's motivated. Sucks for you, rest of the world!

NORWAY has done some okay things but destroying South Korea, getting past France and being destroyed by Brazil is not the most impressive of resumes. They face the U.S. next on Wednesday in the semi-hyped battle of the only two World Cup and Olympic champions blah blah blah blah blah, but these women do not look capable of beating the Americans right now.

GERMANY is the other team playing really well. They soundly whipped strong Japanese and Canadian teams and should not have much of a problem with.....

RUSSIA. The land where the New Wave hair never died. I'm sure they're all nice people, but they barely got out of their group with Ghana and Australia, which was the weakest of the three.

BRAZIL is the semi-surprise, not so much in that they beat Norway but that they beat them up 4-1. They have a heavy case of the floppitis.

SWEDEN got beat by us, beat Nigeria like they should and escaped with the victory over North Korea that could've gone either way. They could beat Brazil.

CHINA. A model of efficiency, or an incredible waster of goal-scoring chances? They should have torn through Group D but wound up with 3 goals, 2 wins and a draw. That's efficient. Or inept. I dunno. The one goal Australia scored against them was flukey, and the way they play the game keeps them in any game. The way they possess the ball is incredible. If they play mistake-free they are unbeatable, until--of course--they forget to score some goals and the game winds up in penalty kicks.

CANADA. Having said all that, Canada can beat China. All's they need is a little luck.

USA over Norway
Germany over Russia
Sweden over Brazil
China over Canada

Our ponytailed legion has a haa-aard road to travel if they want to win this thing, beating Norway and Germany. A non-US-or-Norway finale is a real possibility.

Monday, September 22, 2003


NORWAY 2, FRANCE 0: For a team with a minimal fanbase, France did pretty well and ended up kinda sorta winning the crowd over when they went on the attack after Norway scored their first goal. But then Norway scored again on a defensive breakdown and the wheels came off that Peugeot. Norway could've looked a little better.

NORTH KOREA 3, NIGERIA 0: North Korea all had identical male haircuts and I think dropped Kim Jong Il's name in the postgame interviews. They looked really good on the field, or else Nigeria was just as terribly disorganized as they looked.

GERMANY 4, CANADA 1: This should be a sign of Germany's strength; both these teams were touted as ones that could win it all, yet Germany wiped the field with Canada. Maren Meinert, of the late Boston Breakers, rules.

JAPAN 6, ARGENTINA 0: "Emerging power" Argentina stiiiinks.

UNITED STATES 3, SWEDEN 1: This is another impressive win, as impressive as Germany's over Canada--both those victories showing a favorite playing really well, in contrast with Norway getting past France and China eking out the win over Ghana. My favorite player on this team the unheralded Shannon Boxx looked great. MIAAAAA! looked great. The ballyhooed Hanna Ljungberg didn't get a shot off. I just hope we're not too old to keep winning like this. There you go.

BRAZIL 3, SOUTH KOREA 0: While South Korea wasn't the last team in the World Cup (that was Japan) they are very much in the just-happy-to-be-here role. Brazil is supposed to be really good and doing it for the sisters since they get zero support back home.

RUSSIA 2, AUSTRALIA 1: This is supposed to be a minor upset. I have nothing else to add.

CHINA 1, GHANA 0: Ghana looked pretty good, like they had a gameplan to bend and end up playing much of the game in their half of the field but not break. China did not look like the contenders they're supposed to be, but they still have to be the clear favorites out of them, Ghana, Russia, and Australia.

Wednesday/Thursday's games:

Norway vs. Brazil: The only TV game on Wednesday. The first test for both of these. I'm going with Brazil in the slight upset.

Germany vs. Japan: You want to praise Japan to high heaven and then you remember they dominated Argentina. Germany.

France vs. South Korea: SOMEbody's getting the points here. France. PICHON!

Canada vs. Argentina: Oh Canada....

Sweden vs. North Korea: Sweden needs points. We'll see how good North Korea is. A draw.

Ghana vs. Russia: Ghana. They need the points.

United States vs. Nigeria: I can't imagine the US having much of a problem with Nigeria.

China vs. Australia: China, by virtue of being better, wins another one in non-convincing fashion.

There you go.
MAC WATCH: Three MAC teams beat three ranked teams this weekend, people notice.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

VIEWING THE JUMBOTRON AT THE LINC DURING THE WORLD CUP TODAY: This is a really great ad, about the Chinese team challenging the US team with these Crouching Tigeresque soccer moves. I love that they bothered to put Sun Wen in it instead of copping out and throwing an actress in there. Details, details.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

REMEMBER: When Gregg Easterbrook talks about the NFL, you can listen to him--he actually watches the NFL. When he talks about the NBA, a sport he doesn't watch:

A decade ago, the NBA was being touted as the new juggernaut of sports; all its numbers (ratings, revenue, attendance, marketing sales) had risen for years. Since then, NBA popularity has been in free-fall decline -- regular-season ratings down 42 percent in the last decade, this year's Finals the lowest-rated in two decades. What happened, exactly, when the decline began? The NBA opened its doors to a wave of teenagers. can safely ignore him, because he lives in a parallel universe where expansion and Michael Jordan's retirements never happened. And where the lowest-rated NBA finals in two decades have nothing to do with the presence of Tim Duncan. And I don't even think NBA play quality has gone down significantly.

And here's King Kaufman disagreeing with him on the Clarett thing:

But I think he's off-base here. Signing teenagers isn't what leads to a decline in quality of play. Making bad personnel decisions does. If 19-year-old players aren't as effective as veterans in their 20s and 30s, then it's a bad personnel decision to draft and sign them. So don't sign them. You don't need a rule.

In baseball the Oakland A's have shown that, for example, signing mediocre relievers to eight-figure contracts because they pile up a lot of saves is a bad decision. Others are starting to learn that too, but nobody's advocating for a rule against relief pitchers getting big contracts. Every once in a while a Mariano Rivera comes along who's worth all that money, and he should be able to get it. The NFL's minimum age rule, the one Easterbrook says the league must preserve, essentially protects NFL owners from their own poor decision-making.

It's often argued -- not by the NFL, which absurdly talks about encouraging kids to go to college -- that the reason for the draft rule is to protect the current system, where the NCAA acts as a free minor league for the pro ranks. Players arrive trained, and in some cases as fully marketable celebrities, at no cost to the NFL. That's true, but it would still be true without the rule if NFL teams made good personnel decisions.

So to sum up: Easterbrook on the NBA: Bad. Easterbrook on the NFL: Cutesy, but good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


The team has won four South American Championships, and its star has been rising outside the region.

After failing to get out of the group stage in the 1991 and 1995 World Cups, Brazil managed a fourth-place finish in the 1996 Olympics and third at the 1999 Women's World Cup. It was fourth at the 2000 Olympics.

Still, for the Brazilian public the team hardly exists.

And it rankles that media attention at home has focused not on the best players, but arguably the worst - Milene Domingues, better known as the wife of Real Madrid star Ronaldo.

Coach Paulo Renato said he was surprised by how out of shape Domingues was when she reported to training camp, but the blond 24-year-old has stayed on at the insistence of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation.

The confederation argued her presence was essential to raising the visibility of women's soccer in Brazil.

That may be so, but it hasn't done much for morale.

Her presence at training camp has reportedly angered several players who risk being cut from the team so Domingues can take their place.

Nor does it help that compared to the well-heeled Mrs. Ronaldo, the players are dirt poor, many barely getting by on the team's meager allowance of 30 reals (US$10) a day.
HEY: Heather Mitts has a website. Pay section opening soon. KIDDING! Just kidding. I'm so sorry.....
GOOD LITTLE WUSA CHAT: With Brian Straus of the Washington Post. Straus is a smart-ass, so don't let that trip you up too bad. Here's a good comment (not from Straus):

The WUSA was a failed business model. Not so unusual especially is these bad economic times. What women's soccer should do is go back to the drawing board learn from the mistakes and forge on. To this end by 2004-5 a new league should be formed that will be regionalized in two or more divisions that will play games only within the geographic region until the championship game or short playoff series -- Piggyback on existing A-league or MLS teams. Play games as part of double headers to keep expenses down. Emphasize building a fan base that attends games as opposed to scoring lucrative television contracts. Have players train and then work at other jobs during the rest of the day along the lines of what home depot does for Olympic athletes. Sometimes you have to think initially small to make your eventual breakthrough. That's the reality of sports that actually succeed in the U.S.

Here's the "benvolent conspiracy theory" angle:

Washington, D.C.: Talk about doom and gloom! You guys are totally wrong. The reality is just the opposite of how you paint it. The announcement was timed perfectly, just before tens of thousands will attend and hundreds of thousands will watch the World Cup action. They needed more sponsors and more will crop up when they see the potential for advertising. It will all turn out okay before the drop dead date. Guaranteed.

Brian Straus: We'll see. Perhaps that's what the league is banking on - a sudden surge of support in light of the WWC and the announcement's timing. Huge gamble - compete with college and pro football, mlb playoff races, start of nhl season, end of mls season, and hope sports editors aren't turned off by the sudden irrelevance of women's pro soccer. It's a huge, huge gamble.

Via SportsFilter.
THE END OF THE LOS ANGELES VIP ROOM: A city weeps openly. Doesn't this mean that the eternal pagan mysteries of the lapdance just move to the suburbs?
BITTERNESS: The WNBA has a great finale last night and I don't watch because I'm bitter, bitter, bitter that the WNBA has vast corporate support and the WUSA leadership never found any. Steve Sailer dug up one of his old comments here:

Unfortunately, after each frenzy of patriotic feminist chauvinism, our poor women athletes come home and set up a domestic pro league that rapidly loses the interest of most everybody except lesbians and the kind of pathetic guy fan who'll watch anything on ESPN2. That's because, to be frank, even the best women aren't anywhere near as good at sports as the best men, so what's the point in watching them unless they are kicking foreign butt?

This works as an explanation for not watching the WNBA, but not for the WUSA; soccer just isn't a sport where Americans in general have any clue what a quality game looks like--there's not a level of sophistication where an average American could tell where a women's pro game suffered in comparision with a men's pro game. Plus my own perception of soccer is that it doesn't require a lot of obvious athleticism, and there isn't a great quality-of-play difference in terms of how the games actually look between high-level men's and women's competitions. I think you can blame the sport and it's nebulous after-school activity status and not the gender of the athletes for the WUSA's failure. But, I mean, if the WUSA had a D. Stern or a Phil Anschutz keeping it afloat, I wouldn't be posting this right now.

Reluctantly, I have to question the attitudes of the WUSA's founder-players, just if they realized how hard it would be to found a new sports league with an intended audience of 12 year old girls. A league where you'd support it because it was your civic duty, because you (as a parent or whoever) wanted to inspire the girls of today to become the athletes of tomorrow, not because you wanted to see a soccer game. It was--in that sense--an incredibly unrealistic business plan. How much disposable income do 12-year-old girls have? In hindsight it seems like the league was founded on good feelings and that and a hundred million dollars will buy you a pro sports league, buddy. Here's Mark Starr of Newsweek laying a wreath on the grave:

And frankly I blame you, all of you.
All of you who didn’t, as we said so often when I was a kid, put your money where your mouth is. All of you who couldn’t be bothered to buy tickets so that attendance slumped 15 percent since the innaugural year. All of you who never tried to find the games on cable’s outer reaches so that the league’s TV rating were infinitesimal. All of you who are quick to scream bloody murder over threatened inroads against Title IX, but don’t bother to give the most talented of those Title IX babies a place to prosper. All of you “soccer moms” who somehow became a major political force, but not a force for women’s sports. All of you corporate frauds who claim a commitment to both sides of the gender divide, but who are unwilling to invest modest dollars in anything less macho than the NFL. All of you editors who celebrated the World Cup in your pages—sports, news and editorial—and then quickly consigned women’s soccer to the agate type.
And believe it, I blame me, too.

Of course, part of the appeal of the WUSA was that it wasn't just Title IX Americans, but the best of the national teams as well. That was it's uniqueness, being the best of the best with an American tilt by necessity.

Jeff Taylor added something else:

Except that those involved in the WUSA -- players, execs, sponsors even -- did not understand that the women would have to be content to play in what essentially would be a minor league for a very long time, a decade perhaps, as the fan base grew. That didn't happen has the WUSA burned through $100 million in a pointless attempt at equality of largess with men's sports.

The WUSA was not nearly as guilty of forcibly trying to legitimize themselves as the WNBA was, and is, but he's right. Women's start-up leagues should not think of themselves as being immediately entitled to half the popularity of the equivalent men's league (the idealistic Title IX thing, which can work in an idealistic enviroment like college) but as actual new sports, because they are actual new sports. A WUSA Redux will ideally be more like the NLL or the AFL in the early days: players paid per game in llow hundreds of dollars. It won't be as grand as the grand WUSA dream of women being able to make a living off professional soccer, but, sheeit, you're supposed to work toward your dreams, not expect to dream them and never wake up. My final analysis seems to coming down to that this was a case of "too much, too fast" which I didn't think when I was watching WUSA games, because the salaries were low ($80k at the most, and that was for a very few), there weren't that many teams (two more than the early, stable NHL, which played as six teams for 20 years, and is still, to my mind, the most successful niche sport ever) and consequently there was a high level of play. But even those apparently low expectations weren't low enough, it seems; they needed to be even lower.

Perhaps the SPORTSbyBROOKSian interpretation is right, that a successful women's sport has to cash in on sex appeal to draw in the pathetic male fanbase necessary to make a sport successful. Which is something that the WUSA was clearly unable to do, with an audience of 12-year-old girls. I dunno. The only sport that successfully melds female hottiness with female athletic achievement is tennis. You could add pro wrestling, but American women's pro wrestling remains lousy. You could suggest figure skating, but figure skating melds female beauty with female athletic acheivement, not female hottiness, sex appeal, schwing factor, whatever you want to call it. I don't know how tennis does it--it's not just Kournikova, she's just the most obvious one--but it does.

Eric McErlain adds something I didn't know:

One other point about Hamm and Chastain: the WUSA was one of the first sports leagues to offer its players equity in the enterprise. So while they, and many others, took pay cuts, their compensation packages were most likely heavily leveraged with equity incentives -- not much unlike the millions of dot commers who took lower salaries in the hopes that the startup they signed on with would blossom with a big IPO.

Optimistically, perhaps the end of the WUSA is the last gasp of the old speculative economy, and maybe we can go into a more realistic model with WUSA Redux--some amped-up version of the W-League. A successful women's pro league is still very doable, it seems to me--it just has to have the right business model, which would have minimal profit expectations, where the only people who would play would have to be the passionate ones. Maybe you wouldn't be able to draw the world's best anymore--you wouldn't see Kelly Smith and Marinette Pichon on the same team ever again--but you'd still elevate the level of play, if only the American game's level of play.

But....yeah, the dream is over. Like I said: it was the best women's pro league ever, and I mean that entirely in terms of level of play, in terms of how entertaining the games were. May high-level women's soccer return in a more stable form.

Monday, September 15, 2003

WELL THIS STINKS: WUSA shuts down. It was the best women's pro league ever. The execrable WNBA remains on tv. I don't know what else to say.
NFL GAME OF THE SUNDAY: Not that I saw it, but this Bucs/Panthers game looks like it was the drizzling snits. Three blocked kicks? Outright hatred? Plus a so-appropriate post-game Ric Flair moment:

"We shocked the world," defensive end Mike Rucker screamed on the field seconds after Kasay's kick. "To be the best, you've got to beat the best. We just beat the best."

Blood and guts:

"This was a heavyweight championship fight," safety Mike Minter said. "Ali and Frazier. Toe to toe.

"I really feel this football team is starting to understand that we're starting something special here."

Coming off the field and in the locker room, it looked as if the Panthers had been in a fight, as blood, sweat and tears flowed. Rucker was bleeding from his left elbow. General manager Marty Hurney's sweat-covered hair looked as if it had been covered by a helmet.

Defensive end Kavika Pittman appeared to have a few tears running down his cheeks as he was carted off after suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

"I'm hurting in every joint possible," Rucker said. "I'm dog tired. That was tough. But I feel good. That's what we love to do."

If you had one of those horrid dishes, you were lucky, lucky person on Sunday.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Is best understood as a series of exhibitions, each with their own traditions and importance, like today's Notre Dame-Michigan game. It is best not to think of it as a traditional sport with a championships and playoffs, but as a discrete set of events (a "season") that contain individual dramas, with very little of the season-length storylines you find in the pro game. In other words, college football games are self-enclosed dramas, or at least tend towards that, with traditional rivalries being much more important than where one winds up in the overall picture. The drive to make college football more like the pro game--a process that shall be called Hurricanization--runs counter to everything that makes college football distinct. The University of Miami Hurricanes, a team with minimal local support, exist only to make money for their university and command the hearts and minds of very few in the traditional, local way, and should be hated by all college football fans.
HEY, CRAP: Comcast digital cable doesn't carry NBA TV. Thanks for nothing, NBA!

Friday, September 12, 2003

HEY, COOL: NBA TV is televising the Eurobasket finales. I expect a Pau vs. Parker championship.
SOME OLD SKOOL WARBLOGGER ASS FACT-CHECKING: Radley Balko links to the now on-line Tom Junod article in Esquire that tries to identify September 11th's "Falling Man," whose picture--Junod claims--is the best-known image of someone who jumped from the World Trade Center. It's a pretty good article, questioning why images of the falling people have been banished from our mass consciousness--but there is this blog sideline:

And yet if one calls the New York Medical Examiner's Office to learn its own estimate of how many people might have jumped, one does not get an answer but an admonition: "We don't like to say they jumped. They didn't jump. Nobody jumped. They were forced out, or blown out." And if one Googles the words "how many jumped on 9/11," one falls into some blogger's trap, slugged "Go Away, No Jumpers Here," where the bait is one's own need to know: "I've got at least three entries in my referrer logs that show someone is doing a search on Google for 'how many people jumped from WTC.' My September 11 post had made mention of that terrible occurance [sic], so now any pervert looking for that will get my site's URL. I'm disgusted. I tried, but cannot find any reason someone would want to know something like that. . . . Whatever. If that's why you're here—you're busted. Now go away."

If you Google the words "how many jumped on 9/11" with the quotes you get bupkis. Without the quotes, you don't fall into a blogger's trap but get an assortment of entries on the subject. If you Google the exact phrase (without quotes) Junod quotes above--how many people jumped from WTC--you--again--do not fall into a blogger's trap, but do get led to the exact entry Junod mentions (it's second, actually) which is TECHFLUID, the blog of Chari Daignault, who has added the following on 9/10/03:

Please do not make assumptions as to why this entry was posted. If you want to know, just ask. Any journalist with a modicum of integrity would not have changed the context of this post and made presumptions as to why it was published. Any journalist with a modicum of integrity who truly wanted to present the truth would have asked. But of course, sometimes the truth doesn't sell newspapers, does it?

Or magazines. Anyhow, at no point do you fall into a blogger's trap; I guess there's too many ways to ask for information about people jumping from the World Trade Center for any one way to dominate Google. So at worst Junod is guilty of wildly overstating this one little bit of his article; that there is no blogger's trap, merely one page alongside many on the ol' Google pageranking. Then there's the more obnoxious point that he lifted Chari's post out of the context of 1. her own blog and 2. cyberspace in general to give the impression that this snippet was man-on-the-cyberstreet Internet pulse-feeling. And without identifying her or her blog; on-line opinion-givers don't deserve recognition, even when they sign their name under every post. (Chari doesn't, but she has an "ABOUT ME" page. My point being, it's not an anonymous blog.) So there's probably a little of the high-journalist contempt for blogland in there too, but that's to be expected, methinks. I guess maybe Esquire readers don't use the Internet?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

MULTIPLE STATES OF THE UNITED STATES: From Matt Welch's "The Day Nothing Changed":

First, it is a testimony to the country's strength—a strength nourished by liberty—that it is able to absorb such a fantastic wound in such a short period of time. Second, by letting each of us work out his or her own reaction to events, rather than being drafted into a monochromatic War Effort, the hysteria that accompanied far less grave acts of aggression in the past has been largely avoided.


There are more than a few things to be worried about on this awful anniversary, and more than a few fights to pick with this government about how best to prevent theocratic lunatics from blowing up Los Angeles or Chicago. But we are at our strongest when we no longer have to sing "God Bless America" during every seventh-inning stretch, when we no longer feel compelled to watch 16 hours of CNN every day, and when Merle Haggard is free to write skeptical new songs about war. By resisting the historical temptation to encroach on our personal behavior, the Bush Administration, if it has done nothing else, has allowed us to find our own strength.
DEPT. OF UNSUBSTANTIATED METAPHOR: Maybe video games are like really difficult novels--hard to finish, but once you understand the rules, the slogging-through becomes enjoyable.

Monday, September 08, 2003

MARIUCCI ERA BEGINS GRANDLY: Lions kill Cardinals dead.
THE OTHER GREAT NFL SUNDAY SUBPLOT: Lawyer Milloy beats the Patriots.
YOU CAN SET YOUR WATCH BY IT, PRACTICALLY; THE FIRST ROBIN OF THE SEASON THAT IS THE NFL: One Sunday in and Eric McErlain has the first Mike Martz hate post. Ah, the smell of pro football soopergenius in the air.....
I LOVE THE IDEA OF THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: The NFL team where the kicker is the gutsiest player:

"They stand there and they yell and scream at you. They did it at Buffalo. They did it at Miami in '99 and at Denver last year," said Vanderjagt, ticking off some of his previous game-winners as he slipped the game ball into a backpack in front of his locker. "I don't know when they're going to realize they should really be quiet and not mess with me.

"Game tied, six seconds left, that's exactly where I want to be."

The NFL team with kicker-quarterback controversy:

Before the final drive, Manning had the courtesy to ask Vanderjagt where he needed to be to kick the field goal. At the time, the kicker said, "Wherever you put it down, I'll make it."

Of course, the goodwill didn't last long. Later in the drive, though, Vanderjagt asked Manning to set him up on the left hash mark.

"So the next play, they throw an out to the right," Vanderjagt said. "They don't have a lot of concern for the kicker. I told him (Manning), 'Thanks, I just got done telling you I wanted it on the left hash.' He really irritated me with that. He said (offensive coordinator) Tom Moore was too focused on the next play to worry about what the idiot kicker wants to do."

Yes, Vanderjagt scored every Colt point yesterday, beating the Browns 9 to 6 all by his lonesome.

Friday, September 05, 2003

SCHOOL STARTED THIS WEEK: The Will To Blog diminishes accordingly. This semester's knowledge tour de force:

Molecular Biology
Animal Behavior
Primate Behavior

Though I may drop Primate Behavior as I think I'm getting everything I would want to know about it out of Animal Behavior without having to learn about an endless array of freaking monkeys. Or else I'm not patient enough to get to the point where our professor explains the applicability of primate behavior to human behavior. We shall see.

On a lighter note, my professor outed himself as not understanding Dawkins at all. But I thought Dawkins and the whole sociobiological enterprise represented Dept. of Biology orthodoxy in the year 2003. Is this not so?

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

BLOGGING THE 38TH PARALLEL: I check in on the ParaPundit to see what's going on in his head and find out he's on vacation. He does direct us all over to the Korean expat blog Incestuous Amplification and Marmot's Hole who have links to other Korean blogs and their ears to the KOREAN STREET~! Good stuff.