23 June 2006

Soccer anthems

John Carroll, who writes a column for the SF Chronicle, likes to write about his cats, so much so that he prefaces any column about them with a warning, similar to spoiler warnings you might see on TV show websites. I have a suspicion that over the next month, I'll be writing a column or two more about soccer, so I'll follow Mr. Carroll's lead and warn you ahead of time that this is another soccer blog entry. Of course, you probably guessed that from the title. (For what it's worth, this one's also about music, so you might want to read on anyway. You probably guessed that part from the title, too.) Apologies to those who aren't in the grips of World Cup fever -- and let's not deny that it's a sickness -- and I promise that if you come back in a couple days, you'll be treated to something non-soccer related. Until then ...

First, a quick comment about the US's early exit from the World Cup: It sucked, but we probably deserved it. There's always four years from now. Just hope Landon Donovan decides to show up by then. At least my other three teams are still alive (Brazil, England, and Mexico), although I don't think Mexico is long for this tournament.

Now, on to something a little happier. It should come as no surprise to anyone that many Americans don't get soccer. Although I talk to a lot of people who are following the Cup, there are a whole lot of other people (I think they live somewhere in flyover country) who have no idea what the World Cup is, much less that it's going on right now. We were in England during the last one, and we got to see up-close the cultural phenomenon that is the World Cup. This may go without saying, but over there, it's far more than just another sports tournament. And one of my favorite Cup epiphenomena is the soccer anthem.

Every two years, England goes to a major international tournament, alternating between the World Cup and the European Cup, and each tournament gets its own theme song. I'm not sure how these songs are chosen, or why certain bands choose to write them, but during these tournaments, they and their predecessors from previous competitions are inescapable, kind of like Daddy Yankee was in the Mission last year. One of my surprising favorites is World in Motion by New Order. I say "surprising" because it's from the phase in their career when they had put any hints of their origins in Joy Division behind them and were a full-blown synth pop band. But I can't get enough of the chorus of England football players shouting "Enger-land." There's even a dated (almost comically so) rap by one of the players.

Another memorable one is Three Lions by the Lightning Seeds. It's full of obscure references to English soccer history that I don't get, but I think it brilliantly encapsulates both the pride and the fatalism the English feel about their team. (I think the closest American analogy would be the Chicago Cubs, if they had an entire nation supporting them.) Be sure to check out the names on the jerseys of the Germany supporters toward the end of the song.

Hands down, the best soccer anthem has to be Vindaloo by Fat Les. This one was never an official anthem, but we still heard it a lot when we were over there. And for good reason because after one listen, you'll be humming it all day. You'll probably want to run out and buy a Joe Cole jersey after a couple listens more. Or at least an order of chicken vindaloo.

It'll probably be a long while before the US gets on the soccer anthem bandwagon. In part, I think it's because the songs have to have a certain level of nationalistic pride without going overboard with jingoism. Unfortunately, the only American musicians who seem to like writing patriotic songs are country musicians, who aren't known for their subtlety. Also, I don't see a lot of overlap between country fans and soccer fans. Hope you enjoy these, and let's go Enger-land!

22 June 2006

USA v Ghana

I have to say, I'm pretty nervous about tomorrow morning's game between the US and Ghana. In spite of some pretty inspired play against Italy, we haven't looked too sharp this tournament. OK, we've looked downright bad. And yet here we are with the possibility of advancing in spite of the miserable opener against the Czech Republic and the fact that the only goal we've scored was an own goal by Italy. I can definitely say this is the most emotionally involved I've ever felt about a soccer game. Is this what it feels like to be English? I think that advancing is a pretty long shot, so I'm just hoping for a good game. I guess I should head to bed now, though, so I don't oversleep and miss it.

Super HOTTT follow-up

A quick addendum to my last post on The L Word: I just saw that Jennifer Beals is going to be the grand marshal for Sunday's pride parade. Kind of odd that a straight woman is the grand marshal ("I'm not a lesbian, but I play one on TV."), but I'm not complaining.

20 June 2006


Because we don't have cable, we're often behind the curve on the good TV shows. This has its advantages though, namely that we can watch them at our DVD renting leisure and our friends can filter out the bad ones for us. Last weekend we decided to check out a couple of shows that our friends had been talking up for a while: The L Word and Deadwood.

Just as we were starting The L Word, the phone rang. It was one of Anne's co-workers who dropped by to say 'hi'. Incidentally, she was one of the first people we knew to watch the show and has been recommending it to Anne since the beginning. As she walked in, she saw the show paused on our TV. Recognizing the two characters frozen on the screen, she grinned and said "you guys are a couple of lesbian lurkers!" Yep, caught red-handed. But let me tell you, the show is great fun, and I wasn't (too) ashamed to be busted watching it. It has all sorts of sleazy intrigue and hot sex. It's kind of like Melrose Place with nudity and if being a lesbian were the norm and not a plot device. There's also a hot guy who takes off his shirt a lot, to keep the straight girls interested, I guess. I don't know if we're in it for more than one season, but it looks like it'll be fun for a while. Oh, and did I mention the hot sex?

For what it's worth, we really liked Deadwood, too. Lots of swearin' and shootin' plus what looks to be a cool story arc. It's a little like Lost only the people don't bathe as often. And there aren't any polar bears. Oh, and did I mention the swearing? Ok, so it isn't anything like Lost.

16 June 2006


The World Cup's one of my favorite sports events. I probably first started following it back in 94 when Roger and I watched it and wondered if we were the only people in Reno who cared. (Which is silly, we were just the only people in town who'd grown up there and were watching it.) I really started getting into it when I was in England during the last one and got to see up close and personal the enthusiasm (and psychological torture) of a nation that cares about the event. We went to a pub during an England - Argentina match and couldn't even find a place to stand. Because we were on our honeymoon, I didn't make much of an effort to watch the games, although it was easy to follow the tournament by osmosis. To a certain extent, that's the case for this tourney as well, at least in the soccer-friendly Bay Area. But I haven't really had to vicariously follow the tournament because -- and I have a confession to make -- I've turned into a World Cup fiend. I've watched at least part of a game every day since last Friday, and have managed to watch nearly a dozen games in their entirety. (Someday I won't have the flexible schedule of a graduate student, and I'll sure miss it.) So here are some of the highlights of the World Cup for me so far:

1. Trinidad & Tobago
The two best games I've watched have to be the two that I've seen these guys play, even though it wasn't until the 82nd minute of the second game that someone scored a goal. The World Cup may not be as friendly to the underdogs as the NCAA tournament, but it's still fun to see one of them play well.

2. Univision's coverage
Because we don't have cable, almost all of the non-ABC games I've watched have been on Univision. (The rest have been in bars/cafes.) Of course we all know how fun and excitable the Latin announcers can be, but they're also a lot more informed and insightful than their American counterparts (see below). At least I think they are. I only understand about every third sentence, but I do think my Spanish has improved over the past week.

3. Talking footie
It seems a lot of people around Berkeley are following the World Cup, and although I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to soccer, it's still fun to chat about it with people. When I watched the England - T&T game at the Free Speech Cafe this morning, I was sitting between someone from Portugal and someone from England. It was cool being around people who grew up with soccer culture (and weren't hooligans). The English woman was pretty anguished about the game, and would say things like "Why do I put myself through this" whenever England shot yet another ball over the crossbar.

If there are highlights, there must also be lowlights, so here are a couple:

1. Team USA
Damn. I knew they were overrated, but who would have guessed they were that overrated. It would be premature to toll the death of the (latest) arrival of US soccer, but if they play even half as badly against the Italians as they did against the Czech Republic, well .. there's always 2010.

I get that soccer isn't very popular here, so it may be a while before a Vin Scully of soccer announcing comes along. But for God's sake, get Dave O'Brien off the air! He is an even bigger embarrassment to our nation than our team. My personal favorite quote so far is "Michael ... er ... David Beckham can really bend the ball when he kicks it." At least he's done his research. And the rest of Disney's crack team of announcers isn't that much better.

3. Ronaldo
I realize the television adds 10 pounds, but my man looks thick. If your own president is calling you fat and questioning your conditioning, I think you have a problem. I certainly didn't drop all that money on your jersey when I was in Brazil to have you leave the first game before halftime.

So I'm really excited that this is only week 1 of 4, and there's much soccer yet to be watched. So raise a beer to the good folks in Germany (because the poor saps in the stadiums can only drink Budweiser) and the 10,000,000 prostitutes who've joined them and salute the single biggest sporting event on the planet!

05 June 2006


Curious about how to commemorate tomorrow's satanic date and don't feel like going to see The Omen? Here's a holiday I think we can all agree on: