Tuesday, June 23, 2009

America's Soccer Dilemma

I don't mean to get my dick off with this blog by just posting random things I've written here and there, but this time, I want to add this to the postings. It's just a letter I wrote to the producers of espnsoccernet podcast: http://www.espnsoccernet.com/podcast. I hate to promote a non-Gier entity with this blog, but what can I say? I'm a fan of the podcast. I like to listen to it at night, before bed... just turn out all the lights and travel away to a far off realm where stories of international athletes and the exotic cities their clubs call home play out as I fall asleep. Hey, it suits me. I love travel and escapism, and international soccer is just a way I get my fix.

Anyway, it's just a letter I spent some considerable time and thought on regarding America's soccer situation. I know that the producers got the letter, but they chose not to address it in any podcast I've heard (not that I'm bitter). If you're a soccer fan, read it, and perhaps you'll agree with me:

Dear Adriano, Jonathon, Dan, et al,

First off, I am a really big fan of your show. I never miss it.

Lately, I've been pondering something regarding American soccer and I don't know who else to ask for an answer. It's a long discussion, but perhaps you can get to it now that it's the off season.

Anyone well knows that American soccer is generally lackluster compared to most of the rest of the world. The typical explanation is that soccer is just not a priority sport in America compared to American football, baseball, basketball, etc. However, these days, it seems most young children in America who are the slightest bit interested in sports play soccer from a young age. Where I'm from (Chicagoland), there are both public and private leagues for kids as young as 4 or 5 and as old as 18. Most colleges in the US have a varsity soccer team, many of them quite good. And America is now home to the MLS, smaller in popularity compared to the NFL for example, but with a respectable and growing following.

My point is that we certainly have many opportunities for kids to play soccer competively in the United States and a growing market for its fans. Many of the most athletic kids in high school chose soccer over other sports. Our population is several times that of England or Spain, but America still seems to be incapable of producing a player like a Steven Gerrard or a Fernando Torres. Why does America seem doomed to mediocrity in soccer? Why can't we produce world class players? (I'll admit Landon Donovan, for example, is quite impressive, but seems to struggle when he comes to Europe and faces more daunting competitors.) Winning the World Cup, as you English well know only winning it once yourselves, is a very difficult thing to achieve, but could the US ever expect to win it? We can dominate in the Olympics, for instance, but most Americans don't seem to consider track and field, gymnastics, or swimming high interest sports. Certainly more kids in America play soccer than those sports (with the possible exception of track and field). Then again, most other nations probably don't care much about the Olympics except for Russia and Australia with swimming. And in the Olympics, stories of the more dominant nation falling to the less favored seem common practice, like Korea beating the USA in baseball, or the US men's basketball team losing in the 2004 Olympic games. Why can't the US beat Brazil sometime at soccer? We never do.

Perhaps it is, after all, because our best athletes chose other sports over soccer, unlike the best athletes of most other nations; Chad Ochocinco (formally Chad Johnson) was an excellent soccer player in his youth, but was forced to chose between it and American football, ultimately going for the fame and fortune of being an NFL wide receiver.

I simply don't know. Perhaps we lack proper instruction and coaching. Or perhaps its because our soccer league is just not rich enough to bring in adequate competition like the Premier League can, giving players from all over the chance to improve by facing stiffer competition.

Anyway, it's a long and ongoing debate, just like this is a long and ongoing email. Perhaps we'll never know, but I would like to know your opinions on the subject.

Darian Gier from Wheaton, Illinois

*I should add that after I had written this email, the United States, after looking like they would subsequently return from the Confederations Cup tournament as embarrassed losers, did manage to make it to the semifinals against Spain in an amazing turn of events (the semifinal match is tomorrow, but I assume the US will lose to a really, really awesome Spanish team).

Even regardless of their recent success (or luck, as it were) I do think that our national soccer team is respectable, and a pretty decent team considering the field of talent they often play among. They are a group to be proud of, whether you embrace soccer or not. That said, I still cheer for Germany.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Old Favorite

I have been a pretty big SNL fan since I was just a kid. I'll never forget the days of my youth, just waiting each Saturday night for the opening skit, and the chance to laugh with my family. When I look back on it now, however, I don't think I'm a fan of each season. There have certainly been highs and lows; I think the late 80s and 90s up until the 2000 election were generally a high, and since then, we have only really seen glimpses of good writing.

Anyway, I really just wanted to share a skit that has always been one of my favorites. Walken has hosted the show many times, and I believe only Alec Baldwin has hosted more. I've seen this skit 50 times, and every time, it still gets me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The case against Sam Martin

If you know Sam Martin, and I'd like to think that I do, you'll agree that a good one word description for him is simply "failure". In all that he attempts, in every professional, academic, personal, athletic, or social instance of his life, he has failed, failed, and failed again.

I've known Sam for about four years, and known who he is for even longer. He first appeared on the scene of UChicago as a goofy freshmen kid with a mop-top living in Max Pavelsky who was friends with Rob Huff. At least before I knew him I respected him, or at least who he appeared to be; but alas, I got to know him, which has removed all doubt of his shitiness.

When he first met me, he has said he instantly didn't like me. Which, he confessed a few years later, is generally the case with every other poor, innocent soul who has the misfortune of making his acquaintance. The bastard will immediately judge your every little move superficially and hold it against you. One instance I observed, someone offered him a chocolate bar, which he accepted and enjoyed. Then, once the chocolate giver had left the room, he turned to me and said, "Who the Hell gives away free chocolate bars? That kid sucks." I said to Sam that he had given you a chocolate bar, and that was a venerable deed, to which Sam replied "to Hell with him."

Over the years, I have watched Sam tragically become the victim of his own demented character. Girls reject him, and he wonders why. He hates and sucks at doing his schoolwork and makes a scapegoat of his choice of collegiate institution and every random person associated with it. He has been unable to hold a job better than a carpet cleaner or tea barista, and has subsequently pissed away all his earned money indulging in a collection of terrible action movies and barbecued pork.

The instance in Sam's life he will be quick to tell you he is most proud of is founding and leading a successful men's choir. To be fair, this is an accomplishment on some level, but like any example from Sam's life, he has taken something pure and true, and killed it. How one person can take an honest men's choir full of good natured college kids and turn it into a make-shift frat full of sexual deviants who throw horrible parties is beyond me, but I assure you, Sam has managed to do it, and do it well. And I haven't even mentioned their worthless, boring performances which don't seem to attract anyone Sam doesn't force at knife point to attend. I honestly will give 50 dollars to any single person who can attend and not fall asleep. Seriously, if you can do it, email me and prove it, and I will pay you 50 dollars.

To give you a more illustrated idea of what it's like to actually know Sam, here are a few of his more memorable quotations:

Me: Hey Sam, I went for a jog today for the first time in a while.
Sam: You went for a jog? Did the EARTH SHAKE?!

Me: It's my goal to lose some weight this Summer. I think I can do it.
Sam: You fat piece of shit, you're incapable of losing a pound the way you cram your fat ass full of pie all the time. Forget it.

Me: Sam, I'm supporting this new thing called the One campaign to end global poverty.
Sam: That's a ridiculous, Marxist idea. For there to be rich people there have to be poor people. I say keep the poor people down and out of the way of the rich folks. Rich people are better.

"I hate everyone that's different from me."

Sam: Did you just fart?
Chick Sam is trying to bone: I can't believe you just said that, get away from me, you creep.

"Come on guys, Hitler, Stalin, and Torquemada weren't so bad. In fact, I like them. I like them all."

"My favorite actor is John Leguizamo."

But these are just a taste of what it's like to know Sam Martin. To be his friend, as I have ventured to be for a few years, is much more painful. If you're like me, and you end up unwisely entering into a friendship with Sam Martin, don't expect to be fulfilled. Instead, expect scorn and abuse at every turn. As Sam's friend you'll develop a complex about your weight and physical appearance. If you're even moderately overweight, he will rain fat comments upon you, like "gigantor". If you're too skinny, he'll tell you to go gain some weight, "skeletor". And if you're perfectly in shape, he'll still tell you you're too fat. In any case, he will continue to put you down until you are on the verge of taking your own life, taking his first as a souvenir.

Thus, I give you one last word of advice. Someday, if you see Sam Martin approaching you with open arms and a crazy smile on his face, you do what I should have done four years ago: run. And then shoot the bastard.