Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nitty from the Gritty

Continuing our World Cup 2010 coverage on Lee's Steez, here's an interview with our favorite Brooklyn soccer afficionado. Grit was kind enough to squeeze this into his busy schedule before tomorrow's quarterfinal matches...

Lee: Give us a quick profile of yourself as a soccer fan.

Grit: I was partnered with a Man-U-supporting resident alien for about 12 years. Caught the World Cup bug in '98. Lived in an immigrant-rich part of Brooklyn throughout the 00's, regularly waking up at 7 a.m. to watch live matches on Fox Soccer Channel and Goal TV. Watched nearly all of the '02 World Cup even though it was on in the middle of the night (when it was over I had jet lag though hadn't left home). Traveled to Europe (not Germany) to enjoy the '06 action without so much time shift.

Let's just say I know the difference between Xavi and Xabi Alonso, and what it means to win "the treble."

You can’t walk down the street without hearing someone complain about the officiating this year. Is this a product of better replay technology, the fact that soccer’s fan base is expanding, or do the refs just really suck in this tournament?

Nothing has changed except more Americans are watching. Every American must go through this pain to adapt to football (I'll call it that to distinguish from MLS) or just go back to ignoring it. You see, Americans expect fairness. Other countries cry when they lose on a bad call, but only we cry and also demand a permanent fix. I'm sure it looks ridiculous to the rest of the world -- especially to those who know that American sports also suffer from horrendous officiating errors and biases, despite elaborate efforts that cause absurd game delays. The notion that more rules make sports more fair sounds to the rest of the world like a call for more lawyers in sports. I sympathize with the World's point of view, though will point out that technology improved tennis, and that the England-Portugal quarterfinal in Euro '04 was the most excruciatingly unfair sporting event ever staged. My solution was to forever despise Portugal and quit supporting England, which is working out nicely.

For our American readers, can you give us a cultural reference point for Wayne Rooney, if such a thing exists?

You have to go back a bit, before all American sports stars were media coached. I'll say Moses Malone. Huge talent, unfathomable aggression but tough to hide the extent to which focus on the game and a very early arrival to the front of the pro stage have impeded the development of mature human being. It looks like Wayne is being better taken care of, but if they put the mic in his face after games it wouldn't be as pretty as with Ron Artest.

I was thinking that Brett Gardner might make a decent soccer player: low center of gravity, inhuman speed, dorky voice, etc. Are there any current New York Yankees that could hack it on the pitch?

All the Latin-American-bred players who are smaller than Orcas (i.e. not Sabathia) probably played into adulthood and are reasonably good. The skill set is so elemental -- speed, eye/hand coordination, balance, discipline to practice -- that it makes sense to assume that almost any great American athlete who can run and is not a specialist at some non-athletic skill (i.e. not Nick Johnson) could have been a great footballer. A-Rod and Jeter for sure, Gardner, why not?

Don't forget that Iron Maiden and their road crew were a champion team. Not sure how that's relevant, but don't forget it.

The Florida Marlins succumbed to World Cup fever a few weeks ago by equipping their fans with vuvuzelas (officially promoted as “Marlins Air Horn Night”), resulting in one of the craziest games I’ve ever watched on television. Do you think the “hell-horns” could possibly expand into American popular music anytime soon (Dave Matthews Band, Jay-Z, etc.)?

Don't forget that the samba part of "Fool in the Rain" was inspired by Argentina's cheering section in the '78 World Cup.

Any predictions for the quarterfinal matches and beyond?

A Uruguay-Paraguay final would be too sweet for words, but I'm not holding out hope. I will hold out hope for Ghana, though they're not good enough (i.e. I will hope they triumph via flukes, chokes and bad calls). Anything can happen, but the safest money is on the one team with international superstars actually cooperating on the pitch, which is Argentina.

One last thing I want to say: I can't praise highly enough ESPN's decision to staff English announcers for their matches, and I can't denigrate vociferously enough ABC's decision to put an asshole American in the booth for last Saturday's disappointing round-of-16 US loss. I sincerely believe we might have fallen because this dipshit's endless speculations on the feelings of the players, especially late in the "psychological game," were so alien to the manly and action-oriented nature of football that the sport's ecosystem rejected our team's noble effort.

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