Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hands On With Jabulani: A Not Quite Field Test
With The World Cup Match Ball

I was at my favorite sports store the other day, and lo and behold they had the now infamous Jabulani match ball.

Remember if you see a Jabulani- there are a few different iterations, but at the end of the day there's basically 2 versions: the official match ball- the one causing all the ruckus- and a traditional stitched ball that is simply painted with the Jabulani design. As the official match balls retail for $125 each, the purpose of the painted traditional balls is simple- sell as many 'Jabulani' balls across the world to as many people as possible. After all, that is what this or any new Adidas ball is about: cash, and making lots of it by selling millions of new balls when the previous ball was working just fine.

Here is a photo I took of the two balls. The official match Jabulani is on the right, and a 'regular' ball painted to look like Jabulani is on the left.

It's pretty striking at first glance that the one on the left looks like a soccer ball but the one on the right looks like a golf ball, or something you would expect to see in aisle 7 at Toys R Us. No seams, very shiny plastic, and several different grains & textures, as well as the yellow band which up close and personal looks like it is made out of the same material used in the LIVESTRONG bracelets.

Here's a video I shot of the ball, and towards the end I showed the 'regular' ball for a frame of reference.

It's obvious when you see Jabulani up close and hold it in your hand that this is a radically difference definition of what a soccer ball is. I'd love to test it out with my friends or my soccer team, but my desire to try it out myself, when converted to a monetary value, falls well short of the $125 sticker price.

Anyhow, just wanted to share with y'all how radically different it is and what it looks like up close & personal.

It will be interesting to see, after the World Cup, what leagues do or do not adopt the ball, and also to see the actions of the leagues and team currently using it. I wouldn't be surprised if leagues abandon the ball as soon as they are able do contractually.

What The Apple Cult Looks Like To An HTC Evo User

As an HTC Evo owner of 2 weeks who 1) has heard no less than 4 people in the last week tell me that they have to get the new iPhone4, well, just because it's an iPhone and 2) has told a few people about my new phone only to hear "is it the iPhone?" followed by general disappointment & disinterest, I was so amused by this that I had to post it even though is has absolutely nothing to do with anything that I generally write about.

Don't be fooled by the cartoon- this is not safe to listen to in front of your kids.

I happened to be walking by the Apple store in downtown SF last week and as I looked at the line stretching out the door and up the street, I thought to myself "man, I feel bad for them, because for the 1st time the cult of Apple is lining up to purchase an inferior product, and they either don't know it or are too stubborn to accept it, or at least wait for the next update to come out to fix all that is wrong with the iPhone4 1.0."

Also, if you live in San Francisco (and apparently New York from what I am told), there is no need to get too in depth in the HTC Evo v iPhone 4 debate. The HTC Evo can MAKE A PHONE CALL WITHOUT DROPPING, so just on that alone it is a superior device. As my man Swindle used to say, QEDMF.

56 Games. 19 Days Straight. Somehow Still Married, Employed, And Alive. Calgon Take Me Away...

Some of you are bummed that there is no soccer today. Not me- I couldn't be happier. After 19 days in a row of 2, 3, or 4 games a day, including 10 straight days of getting up at 4.30am, I am am relieved and excited for this 2 day break before the quarterfinals.

I feel today exactly the way I felt 4 years ago today, except now I'm also relieved that my wife still loves me.

56 games in 19 days will leave you needing one of these

I hope y'all enjoy these two days off as much as I will, and from here on out the schedule is easy as pie and the soccer should be incredible.

Penalties Provide Ecstasy For Paraguay, Agony For Japan, And Bring Out The Inner Homer In Chilavert

Paraguay 0- 0 (aet. 5-3) Japan.

Yesterday was exhibit A on the absolute cruelty of the penalty shootout. 9 penalties were taken, 8 goals were scored, and 1 hit the crossbar, and just like that, Paraguay are in the World Cup quarterfinals and Japan are on a flight home. If that's not cruelty defined, I'm not sure what is.

My Spanish isn't good enough to understand more than about 30% of the Univision broadcasts, but all tournament I have been wondering how much of a homer legendary Paraguayan goalkeeper/goalscorer and Univision color commentator Chilavert has been. It *seems* to me that he has remained somewhat objective when performing his duties calling the Paraguay games, but I would need one of you who is fluent in Espanol to vouch for this. Anyhow, as it went to extra time yesterday and then penalties, I was thinking "man it must be getting harder & harder for Chilavert not to say screw it and openly root for his countrymen."

And as Cordozo stepped up to take the potentially game winning penalty, dude finally said to hell with objectivity, I don't care if some Univision executive gets mad at me, it's time for me to get real...

After Honda converts: "vamos Paraguay....."
Just before Cardozo shoots: "VAMOS, CARDOZO, VAMOS!!!"
Then screams "GOLLL!!!" on top of the announcer's "Gooooool!"


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spain 1-0 Portugal. Xavi's Run Off Ball Key To Villa's Goal

First things first- David Villa was not offside.

Too close to definitively call, in which case no call was the right call.

At least half of his body is even with the defender on the far side, so it is a classic 50/50 that could be argued wither way. Given the nature of the movement of the players, it was a pretty impossible call for the linesman to make and have confidence that he was right. Tough luck to Portugal, but for me the goal is legit.

And while the whole world is talking about Villa and what a beautiful team goal it was, and rightfully so, the key to this goal is the off the ball run by Xavi which ends up leaving Villa alone unmarked. Watch this video and pay attention to the 1st 7 seconds and then from 0:45 to 0:52 to see how Xavi's penetrating run unlocked the Portugal defense.

Xavi runs into the Portugal box, and because 2 Portuguese men are covering both Iniesta and Llorente, the Portugal right back has to move over to cover Xavi or else he will be through on goal unmarked. As a result Villa is left alone, and you can clearly see that Portugal right winger Simao is caught flat footed and realizes a moment too late what has happened; by the time he runs back to cover Villa, Villa is through on goal and it's 1-0 to Spain.

A beautiful and simple illustration of how moving away from the ball the the key to effective team passing play, and one of the most beautiful team goals to be scored at this World Cup.

So Villa is getting all the credit, but make no mistake- Xavi made the goal, first with his off the ball run into space and 2nd with his sublime pass to the onrushing Villa. You will notice that Xavi, and not Villa (who was himself immense over the 90 minutes) was named Man Of The Match. No different than at Barca the past couple years, where Messi, Eto'o, Henry, et al get all the plaudits but it is Xavi & Iniesta who are the 2 keys to the team, the 2 straws that stir the Barca drink, and the Spain one as well.

At 1-0 up Spain were in the catbird seat. As they are the best team in the world at keeping possession, they now could spend 50% of their time playing keep away and making Portugal chase the ball and thus get tired doing so, and the other 50% trying to open up the defense and score the 2nd goal. This exact scenario is the key to Spain's World Cup- I will write more on it shortly, but I am confident that if they score first from here on out they will not come from ahead to lose.

The Nike Curse: Marketing Own Goals Come Back To Haunt. Adidas Strike Gold. The Future Of Soccer Marketing

***Updated Tue Jun 29 2pm PST***

Nike's feature length 2010 World Cup ad, starring in order of appearance:

Write Your Future: marketing own goals

Didier Drogba
Sustains flukey broken arm in warmup match, barely able to compete. 1 garbage time goal when it was too little too late against Brasil.

Fabio Cannavaro
Led defending champions Italy to epic crash out of first round featuring a draw with new Zealand and a loss to powerhouse Slovakia. Booed at airport on return to Italy.

Wayne Rooney
England draw 1-1 with USA thanks to goalkeeper blunder of the year, draw 0-0 with Algeria, barely scrape through to knockout stage where they are annihilated by Germany. 0 goals.

Franck Ribery
Fresh off a sex scandal involving an underage call girl, helps France to epic failure on the field and surreal & embarrassing reality-show level drama queen nonsense off field. 0 goals.

Cut from Brasil's 23 man squad. Watching World Cup and home, and eating. 0 goals.

Lots of stepovers, lots of stop, drop, and roll. Lots of pleading his case to the referee. 1 meaningless goal in garbage time against North Korea in 7-0 romp when his team was already up 5-0.

Nike executives are crying. Pretty embarrassing for them that for the next 2.5 weeks this is all they have to show in all of those commercial breaks they have already bought. Ouch. The interesting part is that as poorly as the 6 featured players did, those players who got a whopping 2 seconds of screen time combined- Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, and Cesc Fabreags, did or are doing just fine, thank you very much. Weird, isn't it?

Meanwhile over at Adidas, they are jubilant and realizing they may have found the new formula: use celebrities and sprinkle in soccer stars to hedge against such a fail risk. After all, Snoop Dogg, Noel Gallagher, Beckham, and Obi-Wan weren't really outplayed by the 6 featured Nike players, were they? Look for future ads to use the Adidas formula to mitigate risk.

The future of soccer marketing: minimize failure risk.

2010 World Cup Quarterfinals Are Set.

Scoring and excitement are way up, players clearly are learning to control the infamous Jabulani ball, and this tournament has made a complete turnaround from boredom and ball juju to potentially epic, with the world's very best teams all coming through and some absolutely titanic matchups to come. So break out your calendars and your sharpies, and save these dates.

Uruguay 2-1 South Korea
United States 1-2(aet) Ghana

Germany 4-1 England
Argentina 3-1 Mexico

Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia
Brasil 3-0 Chile

Tuesday June 29
Paraguay 0-0 Japan. Paraguay win 5-3 on penalties
Spain 1-0 Portugal

Friday July 2
7am Netherlands v Brasil. ESPN, Univision.
11.30am Uruguay v Ghana. ESPN, Univision.

Saturday July 3
7am Argentina v Germany. ABC, Univision.
11.30am Paraguay v Spain. ESPN, Univision.

Tuesday July 6
11.30am Netherlands-Brasil winner v Uruguay-Ghana winner. ESPN, Univision.

Wednesday July 7
11.30am Argentina-Germany winner v. Paraguay-Spain winner. ESPN, Univision.

Sunday July 11
ABC, Univision.

Tennis God & Georgia Bulldog John Isner On Letterman

Winning tennis stamina jujitsu warrior and Georgia Bulldog John Isner appeared on David Letterman last night. Here it is:

The embedded video is acting dodgy. If you can't see it, here's a direct link to the video.

Quick thoughts:

1. Damn, dude still looks exhausted.
2. Damn, the quality of Letterman's writing staff has really fallen off. There were 5 billion tweets funnier than most of those jokes. Good to know I'm not missing anything funny.

Monday, June 28, 2010

From Smoke To Fire: Thierry Henry to MLS
New York Red Bulls Looks Like A Done Deal

Preface: Who Is Thierry Henry?
In pictures:

TH14: best player on the planet in 5 year span covering 2002-2006

In words:
An Arsenal legend, Arsenal's all time leading goalscorer, former captain of Arsenal and France, winner of every trophy in football between France (World Cup 1998, Euro 2000) Arsenal (EPL 2002, 2004 FA Cup 2002, 2003, 2005) and Barcelona (2009 Champions League, La Liga, Copa Del Ray + 3 other titles, La Liga 2010), and catalyst of a dubiously illegal extra time goal that sent France through to the 2010 World Cup at Ireland's expense. In other words, an absolute giant of the modern game.

Photo courtesy of the one and only Arseblog

TH14 Is Coming To MLS, New York
After announcing it informally a couple of weeks ago, today Thierry Henry & Barcelona officially announced that they are parting ways. It now appears that the rumors of him coming to America to finish his career may happen as soon as this week. New York Red Bulls are already running a commercial on MSG saying that they are signing him without saying they have signed him (notice the Arsenal shorts 0.02-0.05 nudge nudge, wink wink) and by some accounts this is "the worst kept secret sports" right about now.

NY translation: "I'm not saying... you know. Da thing, with da guy.
I'm just saying. Fuggudeboudit."

Henry has said for years that he eventually wanted to come to America and finish his career in MLS, and this is the perfect opportunity for him:

1. He loves America, and he can go out and about without being mobbed by press & paparrazzi here.

2. New York is perfect for him- fashion, personality, primadonna, superstar, etc.

3. He's best mates with fellow Frenchman Tony Parker of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs

4. He's a villain in Europe and much of the world for getting France into the World Cup at Ireland's expense with his hand

5. He's now a shamed villain even at home in France after their World Cup reality tv show "The Prissy Whiny Talented Ballerinas Coached By A Batshit Crazy Lunatic" flopped.

photo courtesy of

What He Gets
MLS can offer him a breath of fresh air and a more laid back sporting culture with less scrutiny. He can be a superstar, and live in New York, which is good for his ego & personality, but he'll still be the 10th or 12th biggest star in New York, if that, so the spotlight will not be all that bright compared to anywhere in Europe.

What We Get
But more interesting is what he can do for MLS and US Soccer. Given the massive opportunity generated by the USMNT's run at the World Cup, USSoccer needs to do a few things to capitalize and grow the game in America. And MLS signing name brand aging stars is the first such step. The Beckham Experiment proved 1 thing- that US casual sports fans want a name brand who is good, not a much more unknown to them player who happens to currently be playing at a higher level than said aging star. The path forward for MLS is to sign as many aging superstars as possible. And don't worry about such a strategy stunting the development of homegrown US talent- a rising tide lifts all boats. It will make the league better, and soccer is like any other sport- playing & practicing with better players makes you better.

If your big name star played for a major European club then even better, because consider this- there are thousands and thousands of American Arsenal fans, myself included, who would most definitely go to an MLS game when he is in town & plunk down $25 to watch an Arsenal legend in the flesh. I was lucky enough to fly to London to see Arsenal play at Highbury 2 different times, but most American fans didn't, and now they will have a chance to see TH14 live and in person. And they will. Just look at the massive attendance figures in the last few years for exhibition matches played by the major clubs in the US- those same fans will definitely go to an MLS game when a favorite player from their favorite club is in town.

Yes he is a bit past his prime, and yes he has lost a step, but make no mistake, at 32 he is still damn good and damn capable, ESPECIALLY at the MLS level. The minute he signs the contract he is probably the best player in MLS, period. And he will be very successful here against the slightly lower caliber of players that he will face, and many fans who have never seen what he can do will be dazzled. Win win win.

Chile Are Fun To Watch & A Great Story Post-Earthquake, But The Road Ends Today. Why Brasil Will Win.

Simply stated, this is a bad matchup for Chile. They needed to draw a team less familiar with their unusual 3-3-1-3 formation, but instead they got a neighbor. Make no mistake, Chile are very good, and very fun to watch with their funky attacking formation (cfb analogy would be Leach at Texas Tech or a version of the spread), they just got a bad draw. Chile have only beaten Brasil 7 times in their 65 meetings, and Brasil have won 7 in a row.

Chile did well in CONMEBOL (South Ameican) qualifying, finishing 2nd with 33 points from 18 matches, 2nd only to Brasil who had 34 pts from 18 matches. The problem for Chile is that in their 2 head to head matchups, Chile got bossed, losing 0-3 at home and then 4-2 in Brasil.

Going back a little further, Chile got annihilated by Brasil 6-1 in the quarterfinals of Copa America 2007. In 2006 World Cup qualifying Chile lost 5-0 away to Brasil but did manage a 1-1 draw at home en route to finishing 6th and not qualifying. To be fair those results were under a different coach and system then they currently employ.

Based on that and what I have seen so far, I expect a fairly comfortable Brasil win. And better yet for neutrals, if Chile go for it with their funky attacking 3-3-1-3, we could see a marvelous back & forth exciting goal fest, something in the neighborhood of 4-2.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Argentina-Mexico Will Be Every Bit As Intense
As USA-Ghana, If Not More

2006 World Cup Round of 16: Argentina 2-1 (aet) Mexico. Argentina advance at Mexico's expense thanks to the goal of the tournament, in extra time, from Maxi Rodriguez.

You think Mexico will be up for it tomorrow?

Argentina-Mexico 2006 Round Of 16

Will they be able to channel their emotion and raise their play to a higher level? Yes. Will it be enough to defeat Argentina? No. But it should be another cracking game to watch.

Oh, and Germany & England have a bit of history as well.

Congratulations Ghana. Africa's Dream Lives On.

As predicted, Ghana came out and played for all of Africa, they scored two great goals from their 3 or 4 legitimate chances, and hung on to win. Plus their away jerseys are pretty damn tight.

So congrats to them. This is their first appearance in the World Cup quarterfinals, and they are now 90 minutes away from becoming the 1st African team to ever make it to the World Cup semifinals. And they did all that without their best player, captain, and leader Michael Essien, and with 2 of their next 4 best players, Asamoah & Muntari, coming back from injury and not near 100%. An amazing accomplishment. Make no mistake, if all were healthy including Essien, this is a team capable of reaching the final. If they were to do any more without them all at 100%, it would be amazing. A great story that anyone with a heart could & should get behind.

So here's to you, Ghana. I like Uruguay but I will be rooting hard for you. Up Black Stars!

USA 1-2 Ghana. AET. Disappointing Loss Today.
Phyrric Victory In Grand Scheme Of Things.

If you check out the twitter feed on the right you'll get an idea where I'm at right now.

Keywords: proud, big picture, change is coming, massive opportunity to build on this, root for spain- if they win then we own 1 of 2 wins over reigning World & European champs in their last 60 games which will be great for confidence going forward (12 years ago we lost all 3 matches including Iran).

More later tonight or tomorrow am. Hosted a big party, really need to take a nap & start making some payments on my massive massive WC2010 sleep debt.

That said, I'll give you the closing line of whatever I write: US Soccer is now like a 13 year old kid at Thanksgiving: we just moved from the kids table to the adults table where the big boys sit, and we're never going back.

Do. NOT. Sleep. On. Ghana. Here's Why.

Yes I know that Ghana have been poor, have only scored 2 goals in 3 games thusfar, both of those being penalties. Yes I know that they are missing their best player Michael Essien, and even their 2 next best players, Appiah & Muntari, have not been at 100%. I know that team USA is riding a tsumani wave of soccer support that may very well be the tipping point of soccer relevance in the most powerful nation on Earth, and confidence for team USA will be stratospheric. Hell even Ghana's biggest strength might even be it's biggest weakness.

So why should you fear Ghana today? Well you know there were 6 African teams, and 5 of them are now out- Ghana are the only one left, and they didn't march into the knockout round but rather snuck in the side door. You also know that this World Cup is a massive massive point of pride not just for South Africa, but for all 53 nations of Africa. It may well be the biggest event in the short history of man that they have hosted, and they are all rooting for each other in a way that simply is not fathomable to someone from any other continent.

So today they are not just playing for the national pride of Ghana, which would surely be motivation enough for them. They are playing for an entire continent, for every African man, woman, and child- about a billion people. And just like the USMNT walked out on the field against Algeria knowing what was at stake and what they are playing for, and what they are still playing for today, for Ghana that feeling is about 5x more than for the USA.

Ghana playing for an entire continent. And they know it

So don't think they are going to come out and sleepwalk through and be poor. Given the stakes for both teams and their respective societies, the key to this game will be which one comes out and plays with a controlled passion and does not get overhyped and try too hard. I thought the US did exactly this Against Algeria, and perhaps that is why they missed all those chances. I think if they weren't so jacked up, they would have converted half of those sitters and been ahead 5-0 by the hour mark.

Technically, on paper, this game looks like a 3-1 win for USA. But they game isn't being played on paper. It is being played on a patch of grass in Africa, and the stakes for each set of players, teams, nations, and for Ghana an entire continent mean that the intangible of emotions, and who better controls their emotion by harnessing it rather than being overwhelmed by it, may well win. All of which would give Kirk Herbstreit a massive erection if he and Corso were making picks on ESPN today.

Mr. "intangibles", "emotion" & "who wants it more" himself

Predection? I can't call it, but a) I wouldn't be surprised if Ghana won and 2) I think that whoever wins this match will be on such a wave that they will defeat Uruguay and make it all the way to the semifinals 3) If Ghana beat us today, I will root for them to go on and win the whole damn thing, or at least to beat Uruguay to become the 1st African team to ever make it to a World Cup semifinal.

Enjoy the match- I don't know if it will be epic, but I guarantee it will be emotionally *intense*.

World Cup Bracketology: Knockout Round Picks

In 2006 I got 15 of 16 correct in the group stage but then it all went pear shaped in the playoffs. This year I got 13 of 16 correct (Denmark/Japan, Itlay/Slovakia, Ivory Coast/Portugal), so here's hoping I can do better in the knockout stage. Especially as I am currently sitting in 2nd place in a field of 35 punters in a mucho dinero world cup pool.

Uruguay v USA
Netherlands v Brasil
Germany v Argentina
Japan v Spain

USA v Netherlands
Argentina v Spain

Netherlands v Spain


O.G. Swindle Breaks It Down For All You Young Bucks

To skip all my rambling, sleep deprived nonsense and go directly to superior writing, go here. If you're a glutton for punishment then by all means continue.

I have always followed the USMNT with some interest, but I was not hardcore. Like many, it was hard for me to *really* get into them when frankly they were never that good. So immediately after the momentous win the other day I thought man, all of us soccer fans who were kind of into it but not fully invested emotionally need to seriously bow down to the O.G.s who dared to love the team when it had Jeff Agoos as a starter.

Then I realized that there are many new passengers to the USS Soccer who just boarded at the last port and don't yet know that they are about to blow all the money they saved on the sweet cabin berth on a bar tab that will turn their monthly household balance sheet upside down. You are the young bucks, the newbees, and yes, as recently as last week you may have been flat out haters. Well that's all over now, everything's cool, so let's get you up to speed ASAP- we've got a new OMG biggest game ever tomorrow.

Support the team all out? Yes, of course. But don't try to walk around acting like you're O.G. when you're not, because people can tell the difference between the jacket you just copped at Niketown last night and the raggedy old schwag of yesteryear. So get as excited as you want, but don't pose. The O.G.s deserve respect, so show them some by shaking their hand like you would an old war veteran, for if they've been around since before 2002 then it's odds on they have multiple scars, a touch of PTSD, a tatoo they don't know the shop or even port of origin of, and a war story or 3 to tell.

How can I show my respect? By making sure that you read the best piece of writing on the USMNT that I have come across during this World Cup: Orson Swindle's amazing journey as a die hard member of Sam's Army from 1998 to today. It is titled Found In Translation: 12 Years Of Chasing The US Mens National Team. If you read one article on USMNT, make sure it's this one.

¡Viva Espana! Western Europe Not Dead Yet

Have to give props to Spain, who became only the 5th of I believe the last 50 teams to lose their opening match and manage to bounce back and qualify for the knockout stage. Also a nice pick me up for a country fresh off this tragedy.

Senoras, bienvenudos al segundo grupo de partidos del copa mundial 2010!

The World Cup obviously better for having the best team in the playoffs. I still think they will win, but then I'm pigeon-holed aren't I: I picked them to win World Cup 2006(fail), picked them to win Euro2008(win), so why change now that they are the best team in the world when I was on the bandwagon before it even had wheels?

Finally, don't believe the hype that Europe's World Cup is a disappointment. If you watch alot, then it was no surprise that France & Italy were the 2 shakiest Eurpoean name teams, and it's not too big a surprise they are out.

It is a well known fact that European teams have won 9 of the 10 World Cups held on European soil (and non-powerhouse Sweden made it to the 1958 final on home soil before losing to Brasil), yet have never won a World Cup held outside of Europe. However, in Spain, Holland, and Germany they have 3 teams still entirely capable of winning the tournament outright, and in Portugal and England they have 2 more teams that could make a deep run (but I don't think they will)

Western Europe has not fallen yet.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Feel Good Friday, USMNT Edition: Shutterbugg

Last week we dedicated Shine Blockas to the USMNT, and as expected they overcame adversity to become a national sensation. 5 minutes after their epic last minute win their sippin' on buds with Billy Clint & Reggie Bush in the locker room. Translation: instant rock stars.

So now they are grinding and shining, and now find themselves the targets of every camera lens in the world: Shutterbugs.

"Boi, it's after 12, club like a hive bee,
a bee hive cause now everybody vuvuzelas buzzin' around me..."

Shutterbug, as in another new but as yet unreleased track from the forthcoming(July 6) Big Boi CD Sir Luscious Leftfoot: Son Of Chico Dusty. Hopefully with all the attention from all those cameras they can keep it going; anything near Big Boi's performance on this record and Ghana will have work to do to keep the African flame alive at the World Cup.

Don't remember Billy Clint pounding brews with Kobe & Artest last week...

Feel Good Friday: In Retrospect, I Wish Vuvuzelas Were The Favors At Our Wedding

Noticed that little soccer ball that now appears on each and every one of the eleventy billion videos on YouTube? Well thanks can be directed to Mountain View, California because now you can take any video in the world and add the beautiful buzzing background of an army of vuzuvelas. Go ahead give it a try. It makes everything better, or at least funnier. Plus you can endlessly irritate the whiny little girls who won't stop complaining about a neighbors strange custom when they are in said neighbors house, which is pretty disrespectful- when in rome y'all, get over it.

It didn't take me 2 minutes to realize that we should have given everyone at our wedding one as the favor. But instead of traveling back in time as great expense and effort, we can just click on a little soccer ball and it's as if we did just that. Thanks, Google.

Double click to launch full YouTube version,
then press that little soccer ball in the bottom right of the video

Track Listing
Slightly Stoopid, 'Dancing Mood" intro
Gotan Project, 'Santa Maria' tango
Outkast, 'So Fresh, So Clean'
Outkast, 'Hey Ya!'
Unknown artist, Salsa
Stephen Colbert, Copyright Techo Remix
Vanilla Ice, 'Ice Ice Baby' outro

Why You Should Watch Spain-Chile Today

They are in a much much bigger do or die situation today than we were against Algeria, and by 1.20pm PST will either be all time national heroes or will return hom in shame just like France & Italy.

Since the current World Cup 32 team format began in 1998, 24 teams have lost their 1st match, but only4 of those teams have gone on to make it to the knockout round. If you include World Cup 2010, there have now been 32 teams to lose their 1st round game. Spain is trying to become only the 5th of those teams to escape.

When you add the fact that they are widely regarded as the best team in the world, are currently ranked #1 or #2 in the world by every subjective ranking out there, and have only lost 2 of their last 50 matches (USA 2009 Confederations Cup, Switzerland last week), you can see what is at stake.

Oh, they're also the most enjoyable team to watch when they are "in the mood", so definitely try to carve out some time to check them out today. For very similar reasons to those I laid out for the US before their epic encounter with Algeria, I am very confident that Spain are going to do it and become national heroes. Making history, plus their exhilirating run to become Euro 2008 champions, *should* lay to rest the tired cliche that they historically always choke on the world stage.

Prediction: Spain 3-1 Chile

¡Vamanos La Furia Roja!

Andres Cantor's "GOOOOL!" Goes To 11. Then Again, It Should: He Owns It

Andres Cantor is the guy who gave birth to "¡Gooooool!" when he started using it during the 1990 World Cup. It quickly launched him to the stratosphere and by 1994 he was the most popular and well known sports announcer, and you know the rest of the story.

He no longer works at Univision, but he still does radio.

And aren't we still thankful for that. Because as amazing as the Univision announcer's call of the famous USA goal was, Cantor's call on the radio will bend your mind, and makes the Univision call sounds like Thom Brenneman calling the Sugar Bowl by comparison.

h/t to Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated.

Jabulani Update. Now Featuring Facts!
2010 World Cup Goals Per Game

Whether I am right about Jabulani or not doesn't really matter, for that is a subjective matter. What matters subjectively is the enjoyment factor of games, which appears to coincide with my theories.

But lets look at some cold, hard facts and take subjectivity out of the equation. Bookmark this and come back from time to time to check in- I plan on updating it every day for the rest of the tournament.

Overall: 2.25 goals per game*. 144 goals, 64 games.

Round 1: 1.50 goals per game. 24 goals, 16 games.

Round 2: 2.63 goals per game. 42 goals, 16 games.

Round 3: 2.13 goals per game. 34 goals, 16 games.

Knockout stage: 2.75 goals per game. 44 goals, 16 matches.

Jabulani effect- 1st group stage game: 1.50 goals per game. Since 1st round of group play: 2.50 goals per game. 120 goals, 48 games

*almost up to passed! back below once again back above the all time low of 2.21 from World Cup 1990 since which 2 major rule changes were passed to increase open play and scoring**

**the offsides rule was technically changed just before World Cup 1990, but one could easily argue that teams did not have enough time to get used to, practice, or strategize to make their play at the world cup that summer significantly different

I stand confidently behind my argument, although like many debates the truth is somewhere in the middle. In the middle of what though? For me, the truth is somewhere in the middle of a) my Jabulani theory and b) conventional and long-held soccer wisdom that the first round of matches are cagey, conservative affairs where teams don't at all mind drawing but at all costs do not want to lose (in the current world cup format only 4 of the 34 teams that lost their opening match made it through to the knockout stages- which is why Spain will look so impressive when they become the 5th tomorrow)

Whether I'm right or wrong doesn't matter. What matters is that there are more goals and that makes life better for everybody- from the fans watching them to the players scoring them to the winning nations celebrating them to the corporate sponsors paying to brand them to the TV networks broadcasting them to the advertisers paying to be associated with them and to FIFA themselves collecting absurd sums of money from them to continue running the biggest, most powerful and most corrupt sports organization on the planet.

If you're scoring at home that's win win win win win win win (kind of like gol gol gol gol gol gol gol!).

I'm stoked that this World Cup has gone from boring and frustrating to unpredictable and supremely exciting- I no longer really give a shit if I'm right or wrong, because right about now I'm happy as hell.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

World Cup 2010 Moves To Bracketville:
Buckle Up, Buttercup

Break out the calendar and the sharpie, and adjust your own personal plans accordingly.

No more ties. Win or go home, and draws get the added fun of 30 minutes of extra times and then the "lottery of the shootout".

In other words, it's about to pick up a notch.

If you're a twitter nerd, here's the entire round of 16 schedule in 1 tweet for you to share with your friends.

Saturday June 26
7am Uruguay v South Korea
11.30am United States v Ghana

Sunday June 27
7am Germany v England
11.30am Argentina v Mexico

Monday June 28
7am Netherlands v Slovakia
11.30am Brasil v Chile

Tuesday June 29
7a Paraguay v Japan
11.30am Spain v Portugal

Friday July 2
7am Netherlands-Slovakia winner v Brasil-Chile
11.30am Uruguay-SouthKorea winner v UnitedStates-Ghana winner

Saturday July 3
7am Argentina-Mexico winner v Germany-England winner
11.30am Paraguay-Japan winner v Spain-Portugal

Tuesday July 6
11.30am Semifinal 1- winners of Friday July 2 quarterfinals

Wednesday July 7
11.30am Semifinal 2- winners of Saturday July 3 quarterfinals

Sunday July 11
11.30 am

USA Finally Conquers The World.
By Converting To Socialism.

Reactions from around the globe of USMNT's storybook last minute win.

I happened to be home alone in my apartment when this happened; I was something between "Some Dude In Arkansas..." and "I Don't Know...", although to fair, there are no stairs in my pad.

Where were you when this happened?

(h/t to Adam Jacobi of BHGP fame, and some dude named Jimmy Triana)

USMNT Top Story On Daily Show & Colbert

When Colbert started off with this at the beginning of the World Cup, you knew that over the course of the tournament these guys were going to bring some great stuff.

Steven T. Colbert: great American? Or the greatest American?

Well ancillary bonus #47 of the USMNT* performance thus far is more hilarious coverage from 2 of the best shows on television. Yesterday afternoon I was thinking "man, Daily Show & Colbert could be amazing tonight".

And they were.

Must see TV:

The Daily Show

Colbert Report

I expect more to come from these two, especially Colbert. I mean hell he did this for the Winter Olympics... you can imagine what he and his writing staff are cooking up as this thing has gone from mildly interesting to a real life Disney movie that has drawn in both casual sports fans and even non sports fans.

More of the same, please.

*USMNT = US Mens National Team, the commonly used acronym for the US team

Isner Wins, Becomes Possibly Most Famous Tennis Player In World Today

Georgia Bulldog John Isner just won the most epic tennis match ever played in the history of man.

If you're scoring at home: Isner wins 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

#dawgs #legend #DamnGoodDawg

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 59-59. Win Lose or Tie, Isner Wins. Go Dawgs!

Remember 3 years ago when Isner was Athens' very own
6'9" John Mayer with a 130 mph serve? Fun Times.

There have already been literally millions of clever comments written about his situation over the last 24 hours. On twitter alone. Nevermind the rest of the internet.

So here's the best writeup that I could find in 2 minutes flat. It'll tell you everything you need to know.

Except this:

I don't know Isner, I've never personally met him, but I have watched him do his thing front the front row, and in a not dissimilar situation where he performed like the #2 collegiate tennis player should yet still was denied victory by cruel fate (and a Pepperdine hooker). And I'm here to tell you the dude is a straight up badass. Add to that he's an almost 7 foot tall ringer for John Mayer and we're getting into legend territory even before today's theater of the absurd.

Win, lose, or draw, Isner will spend the rest of his life in the company of tennis immortals. Just like Russell Henley, who at age 20 just beat 120 professional golfers at the US Open at Pebble Beach last week while still smiling and interacting with fans then said "naw homey, keep your money, I'm an amateur & I'm not selling out for all that cash to give up on my remaining goals as an amateur golfer', John Isner is shining like a mofo for the Bulldog Nation right about now.

You don't always have to win the championship, save the day or get the girl to make your community proud. You just have to do your best, and whether that results in failure or epic front page, whole world is tripping on you success, know this: every single member of the University Of Georgia family is proud as hell of you.

So keep shining John Isner and know we're all behind you . That said, here's hoping you come out on top Friday afternoon 234-232.

and that's another... Bulldog. Point. Of. Pride.*

*Sponsored by Golden Flake- the official potato chip of the Southeastern Conference.


Don't get me wrong, Ian Darke- your call on ESPN was damn near perfect. That said, man am I ever glad that I turned it back over to Univision at half time.

Landon Donovan Is The New Mike Eruzione

And Ian Darke now has a seat at the table of owners of the most famous sports calls in American history.

h/t to Brian Cook over at mgoblog, which you should be reading on the regular

USA 1-0 Algeria. Comfortable Win; Never In Doubt.

Landon Donovan is the new Mike Eruzione. And the United States of America is now a soccer nation.

Don't like to brag, but I fucking called it.

The USA Won't Just Qualify Today. They Will Win Outright.

This is why the US will not just qualify today against Algeria, they will win the game outright, become the next great American heroes, and start negotiating the movie rights for their now well known and about-to-explode World Cup 2010 story.

After being victim of arguably the greatest screw job in the long & storied history of the World Cup, in which they would have become the first team in World Cup history to come from a 0-2 defect to win 3-2, this team has a massive, massive bulk of karma coming its way

Not revenge against any team or group in particular, and although millions of people around the world would love to see them get revenge against the now most famous referee in the history of the world, they don't want a piece of him either. They want revenge on the universe for denying them what was herocially earned and rightfully theirs, and they are PISSED OFF and chomping at the bit to get back out on the field and execute their revenge and be the newly minted Captain Americas.

Does this look like someone who is not 100% ready to kick ass & take names?

More Americans, and people around the world for that matter, are aware of and interested in the USA's game today. The players know this, and they know that right at this moment, they have something not yet seen in American soccer: thanks to a single bad decision, their entire nation is yearning, nay, aching for them to set this wrong right. We Americans haven't hoped so hard for a particular result in any contest since 53% of us hoped Obama right into the White House in the fall of 2008. After 100 years of irrelevance in the landscape of American sport, this is the biggest chance the USMNT may ever get to foment the tipping point for soccer in America, and they know it.

They pre-ordered the new & improved (hahaha) Jabulani World Cup ball from adidas at the beginning of the MLS season, and some of their players who ply their trade in MLS are farther ahead on the learning curve than other teams such as Algeria who are still learning to adjust. See: Landon Donovan.

The referee's decision has become the biggest story in world sport over the last few days, but it's legacy has yet to be determined. That comes today, and the stakes are ridiculously high: lose, or draw and get knocked out by the cruelty of circumstance, and their story immediately becomes one of the most famous sporting debacles in this country and will never be forgotten. Win, or draw and qualify, then they are the heroes who conquered this problem and rendered it irrelevant to the point that in 20 years it will just be a historical footnote rather then the first thing every American reads about in the year 2248 when they instantly Google "USA World Cup 2010" with their mind. The players are aware of this, and know they have a chance make the referee scandal a historical footnote rather than their legacy for the rest of time.

A 300 pound pit bull on steroids and meth is about to get released, and as solid and capable as Algeria are, and as difficult as they are to break down defensively & dangerous as they can be on the counter-attack, they are simply the poor team to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Visual Representation of USA When The Whistle Blows at 7am PST Today
one, two, one, two, three, four...

International Underground,
Thunder pounds,
when I stomp the ground. (Wooh)
Like a million elephants,
or silver back orangutangs,
you can't stop the train.
Who wants some?
Don't come unprepared.
I'll be there,
but when I leave there.
Bet I be a household name...

A cagey close game where the US hold a nervy 1 goal lead until they finally go 2 goals up. The Algerians will not give up like North Korea did, and in the spirit of their most famous son Zinedine Zidane will fight to the end in hopes of an injury time 2 goal miracle comeback of some sort. But it won't matter, for when the clock strikes 90 + whatever the referee chooses to add on, the USMNT will be on the cover of the Wheaties box.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Maradona to World: ¡Sigue Chupando! Part II

Diego Maradona is in a class of two: along with Pele, he is either the greatest soccer player to ever touch a ball or the 2nd greatest. Opinions on who belongs where are very divided, but whatever camp people are in they readily acknowledge that the other guy, if not as good as their guy, is clearly #2, not to be lumped in with the next group of players below them(#3 to #10 approximately).

Diego Maradona as a national team manager? Too early to tell how effective, successful or popular he will become in this role, for he is still on the early part of this new journey. What is absolutely certain is that he is already one of the most colorful, entertaining, and possibly batshit crazy coaches of all time, although he might actually have us all fooled into thinking he is an insane fool when he's really a genius who is just on some next level shit that we cannot even begin to fathom.

His incredible resume of recent accomplishments, sane and insane, is well documented. However, one incident in particular is worth reviewing because it is quickly becoming a theme and a mantra that just might propel El Loco Diego and his band of supremely talented footballers all the way to the final and perhaps even the land of milk and honey that lays beyond: Argentina's 3rd World Cup title.

The Summer of ¡Sigue Chupando!
When Argentina finally qualified for this World Cup, on the very final day, El Diego used the post game press conference to defiantly put his critics in the Argentine press, and Argentina in general, in their place. And he did it in pure Diego fashion: he told them on live television beamed all around the world, to "suck it. and keep on sucking". In Espanol: "sigue chupando."

Sigue chupando: a movement is born

He was laughed at, mocked, and labeled a hothead crackpot for the billionth time.

World Cup 2010 Mid-Term Report Card

Name: Maradona, Diego Armando
Games played: 3
Wins: 3
Goals scored: 7
Goals conceded: 1
Groups easily won: 1 (Group A, 2010 World Cup)
Allegedly over the hill old timers who he controversially selected over higher profile younger players who appeared to be in better form: 2 (Martin Palermo, 37. Juan Sebastian Veron, 35)
Mid-Term grade: A+++++

Madman or Genius? The jury's still out, and there will certainly be opportunities to do something incredibly stupid in the win or go home knockout stage that costs your team an excellent shot at winning the world cup, but at this point people are flocking over from the madman camp to the genius camp faster than wall street hedge fund managers switching their position on Bear Sterns in September 2008.

His personal motto for the last 6 months has now become the mantra of the Argentine team, and just might carry them all the way to the World Cup final and possibly even the promised land. After all, he's single handedly done it before with his feet, so do not doubt that he can do it with his allegedly crazy mind when at his disposal is arguably the greatest assembly of soccer talent in this World Cup, Spain & Brasil included.

In other words, welcome to The Summer Of ¡SIGUE CHUPANDO!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jabulani Explained by 2031 Brasilian TV Analyst Of The Year Felipe Melo

If last week's detailed explanation of the Jabulani situation(newly updated with supporting video evidence- go back for a 2nd read & be even more convinced) is too wordy for you by a factor of 200x, and you're the Gordon Gecko executive type with a massively inflated self worth who has an appointment with the crown prince of Dubai in 5 minutes, and you need to completely understand the biggest story in world sport this week in the next 300 seconds, then stop fiddling with the double windsor knot on your $400 power tie and pay attention because these two nice Canadian ladies are here to help:

Wow, next to a real ball Jabulani looks like it came from Toys R Us, eh?

If you didn't quite catch that amazing analysis by Brasil midfield star Felipe Melo because you were thinking "holy shit is this guy the Ron Artest of Brasil?" and missed some of the details, then that's ok. By the power of internet searching and trusty ol' cut & paste, I hereby present the mortal lock for color commentator of the year in Brasil circa 2031 and his eloquent summary of the Jabulani conundrum for fans of all ages:

“The ball is horrible, it’s hard to believe that such a ball will be used in a World Cup. The other ball is like a nagging woman: you kick her and she’s still there. This one is like a spoiled little rich kid, who doesn’t want to be kicked in any way.”

Aaaaaaand, done.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Feel Good Friday: USMNT Shine Blocka Edition

In honor of Team USA's massive shafting by an abjectly miserable referee from Mali and his crew, I present to you Shine Blockas by one of the biggest pimps in these United States, Big Boi.

"Tryin' to block my shine just ain't gonna to happen so don't try..."

Keep grinding USMNT, we're all proud of you especially the amazing comeback today. Karma is on your side now too, and now there's a huge opportunity to go through to the knockout round, so reach out and grab it.

Big Boi's long-awaited(2 years!) new album Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty drops July 6. No less than 5 tracks from it are already floating around on the interwebs, so I'm only going to say this one: get it on July 6; it's incredible- you're welcome in advance.

Team USA: The Math + The Path To The Knockout Stage*

***Update 2.15pm PST***

Slovenia 4 points
3 goals scored
2 goals against
+1 goal differential

United States 2 points
3 goals scored
3 goals against
0 goal differential

England 2 points
1 goal scored
1 goal against
0 goal differential

Algeria 1 point
0 goals scored
1 goals against
-1 goal differential

Wednesday June 23
USA v Algeria ESPN 7am PST
Slovenia v England ESPN2 7am PST


1. USA win over ALG and they're in no matter what

2. USA draw + they're in if:
a. SLV beat ENG
b. ENG-SLV draw, then it comes down to a big list of tiebreakers** between ENG & USA ending with the "drawing of lots" (coin flip to you & me) where the key will likely be total number of goals scored. The good great news is that we are current ahead of England by 2 goals in this department

3. US draw + ENG win over SLV = we're out

So there it is.

**FIFA World Cup 2010 List of Group Stage Tiebreakers (h/t fredericiana)
1. Goal difference in all group matches
2. Greatest number of goals scored in all group matches
3. Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned
4. Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned
5. Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned
6. Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.


SLV 4 pts 2 games played
USA 2 pts 2 games played
ENG 1 pt 1 game played
ALG 0 pts 1 game played

If ENG beats ALG then:
1. US win + any result other than a draw in ENG-SLV = we're in
2. US win + ENG-SLV draw = USA, ENG, SLV all on 5 pts, 1st tiebreaker is goal difference, top 2 in GD are in

If ALG gets a draw today v. ENG then:
1. US win and they're in no matter what
2. US draw + they're in if:
a. SLV beat ENG
b. ENG-SLV draw, then it comes down to a big list of tiebreakers between ENG & USA w/ goals scored being the key
3. US draw + ENG win over SLV = we're out

If ALG beats ENG then:
1. US win = we're in no matter what
2. US draw or loss = we're out no matter what

CONCLUSION: the most American thing you can do right now is run out & buy an Algerian flag and root for them to get some sort of a result against the Evil Empire of George III. Bonus irony points if you're a conservative right winger.

*Someone please fact check this, as I'm on about 20 hours sleep the last 5 days.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Adaptation, Finesse, and Jabulani. Also: Did Maradona Just Save World Cup 2010? Controversy Explained.

This is long, and wonky. If you want the Reader's Digest/ADD/Cliff Notes version, Felipe Melo's got you covered.

- The Great Jabulani Controversy
I'm not here to convince you that the ball sucks and is the main reason for the low scoring, shots, and chances. I was barking that from the beginning and was just frustrated that so many people weren't seeing the obvious and calling a spade a spade- vuvuzelas do not affect the flight of the ball, and neither does altitude when the flight change is from spinning to knuckleballs. If you've watched any significant amount of professional soccer during, I don't know, say the last 10 years, then you know this: players have ridiculous control of the ball, and a huge chunk of beautiful goals are the result of players bending the ball by hitting it with power with the inside of the foot to make it curve and/or dip, sometimes as much as 10 feet and from as far out as 40 yards from goal. In other words, this is what we are used to seeing week in and week out from the world best players at club level:

You remember when TH14 was admired by neutrals don't you? It wasn't that long ago, really.

The best example of this I could find is Robert Pires' powerful bending goal away to Liverpool during Arsenal's famous "Invincibles" undefeated season in 2003-2004. Watch each replay of this goal, especially the last one, but more importantly listen to the commentary clearly explain that the key to this goal is hitting it with the inside of the foot and bending it with power. While you are watching it think about how many times you see this goal each week in say the EPL, La Liga, or any other professional league, and how through 18 games to date with the best players on the planet, we have yet to see it once.

"he bends it with power; that's the thing that beats the goalkeeper"

And it's not just Bend It Like Beckham; it's Bend It Like Any Moderately Talented Pro Footballer. In other words, it's commonplace and seen multiple times in any given match. So when the best players in the world play 16 games in a row without a single powerful shot from range spinning in this manner, let alone being on target or going into the goal, it's pretty simple to see that this ball simply DOES NOT SPIN. Any shot with power is flat and/or knuckles out of control, and takes off like an F-14 off the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Moving On
But now I'm less interested in convincing others of my world view and more interested in trying to figure out what will happen next: will players adapt, or is the angry juju of this ball untameable? And if they do adapt, how will they do it? Can this ball be mastered or will the players only get marginally better, leaving us with the lowest scoring and most disappointing World Cup in history?

I think the answer is becoming apparent, and it is good news for the billion or so of us humans caught up in this so far disappointing affair.

Finesse Will Set You Free
The players in this tournament have been striking the ball the same way to spin it with power to score amazing goals and put in pinpoint crosses for years if not decades, so their brains & bodies are hard wired for this. Change is not intuitive; rather, it is quite difficult to achieve with a simple wave of the note to self magic wand. But it has become readily apparent in the last 24 hours that just such a change is happening right before our eyes.

{damnit, now I remember why I hated your blog back in the day you longwinded bastard- get to the point... /half of audience leaves room}

OK, here's the dope: the way to get Jabulani to spin is to hit it not with power but with finesse, and we've seen a massive shift since yesterday morning. I first noticed it yesterday during Uruguay-SouthAfrica, especially from Diego Forlan. His dipping rocket shot goal thanks to a head deflection aside, I noticed that "holy shit he's spinning the ball on crosses better than anyone else I've seen", but didn't immediately see that he was doing this by taking a little power off of his kicks. But it really got me thinking about this question of adaptation to the ball.

Did El Diego Save The World Cup?
Then yesterday afternoon I saw this from Moin and immediately thought: holy shit this ball can be bent from distance. Eureka!


Made even better by the soundtrack: "Queremos Paz" by Gotan Project

Later yesterday afternoon I thought "man, I wonder if, given the instant viral nature of youtube, and the worldwide takeover of social networking by the World Cup, if this will make it's way to any player/coach/team advisor, because one look at it and you can see the secret to unlock the mystery", but didn't really take my thought seriously.

Then I woke up today and watched Argentina 4-1 South Korea and man it seemed as if the secret was out. The game was certainly joint most enjoyable to watch with Germany 4-0 Australia {more on that in a minute} and it seemed like the players control on shots, crosses, and touches was significantly better. I started connecting the dots but immediately checked myself for being on some phony Dan Brown novel nonsense. But the thought lingered...

Then I watched Greece 2-1 Nigeria, and lo and behold the Nigerian goal was a free kick from 30 yards that spun like a 'regular' ball, and it was clearly hit softer than the default setting power bend shots that had universally failed in the 1st 16 games. Suddenly I'm Keanu Reeves: Whoa.

The rest of the match was more of the same, and if freaking Greece and 10 man Nigeria playing a cracking game with lots of chances and much better technical play can't convince me, then nothing will.

And I don't mean that I am convinced that it because of El Diego. It very well may be that in the days between their 1st & 2nd matches, teams figured this out by application of observation and adaptation by practice. After all, we're talking about the most talented people on this planet at the discipline of controlling a soccer ball. I'm just convinced that the finesse secret to unlock Jabulani is being applied in front of our very eyes; the reason behind it is secondary.

But as I sit here exhausted after watching two games from 4.30am this morning, this much seems indisputably clear:
1. Scoring in the first 16 games was 1.5 goals per game.

2. Scoring thusfar in 3 2nd round matches is 3.7 goals per game.

3. The level of play and thus enjoyment factor for fans/viewers has significantly increased from the 16 1st round games to the 3 (and counting) 2nd round matches.

And of the 4 "best" or "most enjoyable for neutrals to watch" games of the 19 played thusfar, 3 of those four are the last 3, all in the 2nd round and all in the last 24 hours. And this is the key: it's ultimately not about getting into a mathematical argument about comparing the goals scored per game, as that is the science of the game. The key is the art of the game: watch how players start to adapt their shooting, crossing, and lobbed passes by taking a little power off their kicks and using a little more finesse to get this ball to bend and submit to their will. Certainly not as much as any 'normal' ball that came before, but definitely more than what we saw in the first set of games.

Something is clearly happening. Whether or not it's practice, a viral video of Maradona giving every gamer the cheat code, or something else is not the important bit.

The important bit is that things are changing right before our eyes, in real time, and it's win win win win- the players, the fans, the haters, the world, are all the better for it. Have they mastered it? Of course not, there's still the rocket shot field goals into row Z, and there will be more. But I feel a corner has been turned, and I cannot wait to see Mexico-France and the games tomorrow to apply my theory with an increased sample size.

Watch Germany
Universally hailed as the only truly great technical performance of the 32 teams in the 1st set of games was Germany's 4-0 romp over hapless Australia. During the match I was thinking, "damn, Germany are playing like Adidas secretly gave them this Jabulani ball to practice with 2 years ago". We later found out that this is true, except the secret part- the German Bundesliga teams all used the Adidas Jabulani ball last season, and most players on the German national team play on German clubs, so the German players have been using it day in and day our since at least last September. This article has an outstanding and thorough breakdown of who had access to Jabulani & when they had it- a must read for anyone with any passing interest in the Jabulani issue.

Having had this Jabulani eureka moment, I am looking forward to seeing their next match, but what I'd like even more is to go back and watch their first match and see if their play jives with my finesse theory. Given my schedule that might not happen for a few days, but if you're home with mono or otherwise bored off your ass today, go check it out.

Now it could be that I am way off and in desperate need of a full night's sleep (which is true regardless). But I really think we're witnessing the key going into the Jabulani lock, and I'm here to tell you first so you can be the rock star who points it out first to your mates, cause that's the guy who gets the girl's number at the sportsbar from the casually interested in soccer but ridiculously hot expat from an exotic country who's there to support her homeland, not the douche who waits for something to take hold and then acts like they knew it all along.

That said, either you're welcome or I'm sorry.

Small sample size I know, but what do you think? Am I observant or baked?

Jabulani Update with objective goals per match facts here.

*Please don't come at me in the comments about opening matches being cautious, cagey affairs. They are, but I am talking about physical evidence regarding the flight & spin of the ball, not emotional states & conservative tactics.

**Updated with video evidence to support my theory 21 June 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

{opens creaky door, turns on light, clears off dust, coughs}:

"Anybody still here?"

Some World Cup thoughts in my head that cannot be contained by 140 characters, especially re: Jabulani ball & what will happen from here on out/how players will adjust

Just need some time in next couple days to get it all down.

Watch this space...