Six Subtle Sayings That Spoil My Soccer Surprise

world-cup-trophyI am living in a world of instant information, finding it increasingly impossible to try to tune out once in awhile and not know what’s going on. This becomes ever-apparent every four years when the World Cup rolls around.

You see, I love watching the World Cup. If I had no job, no family, no responsibilities, nobody needing me for anything, I would watch all 64 games without question. I am that stupid interested. The problem is, as a 32-year-old dad with a job and a slew of social expectations from many angles, I can’t simply park in front of a couch and crunch Cheetos in my underwear for four straight hours, as amazing as a dream scenario that would be.

Additionally, in the last several years matters have become more complicated, with the addition of a great blessing and equally (well maybe not equally) great curse to us busy men: the DVR. To my joy, Cheetos-and-underwear time once more becomes a possibility. Yet to my frustration, I can’t watch stuff live, and a person, article or app tells me the result of a game before I ever make it to the recording.

Of all the sports, soccer is likely the worst one to miss live. Sports like basketball and football have tons of points and action and someone can tell you something about the game and you’ll still have no clue what happened. In soccer, there is a total of about 45 seconds in the 90 minutes played that is really incredible. The slightest bit of a tip-off might as well give you the entire result without ever having to watch. Friends and family believe they are being discreet when offering a hint about the game of which they saw and know the result, but they might as well just tell you the final score and when the goals happened. After years of watching soccer, I can predict the result with the slightest of tips. Don’t believe me? Here are things all of you tell me that you think are subtle but in reality have ruined the surprise:

“It’s a good game.” Thanks, but I didn’t want to know that. I was content to sit through a crapper. As a soccer fan, I’m prepared for miserable games and willing to watch anyway, because the the upside risk of a great game is glorious. But now I know it’s a good game. So I know there are goals. Plural. Certainly not zero or one. Which means that now I’ll already be on the edge of my seat. But I didn’t want to be on the edge of my seat. I wanted to be sunken into my couch and drifting off into Nod Land and suddenly jarred awake by a cracking wonder strike. And I know there are more goals than one, because otherwise you wouldn’t have said anything about the game. You’d be talking about your hangnail problem or disgust for licorice or what you’re doing about the mosquitoes, all things—while still boring—are more thrilling than that soccer snoozer not worth mentioning.

“It’s an amazing game!” Words that have never been uttered after a draw. The score could be 5-5 but if it ended in a sister kisser using the world “amazing” is impossible. Someone triumphs with amazing. And when the game is 2-0, I’ll see that amazing comeback coming 10 miles away. I’ll be fighting off yawns until the game draws even and I’m halfway prepared to be amazed again.

“You should watch it.” I was going to. Now I won’t. Sounds like a little action but not enough to write home about.

“The second half is fantastic.” OK, I’ll fast-forward to that. Who really wants to watch a first half anyway? It’s only half of the game.

“I’m not going to tell you anything.” Stop smiling. Each notch of your growing smirk signifies goals. I don’t want to know if there are goals! Don’t you understand?!

“Don’t watch the game man.” Are you serious? This is the freaking World Cup. It comes once every four years. I’ll be lucky to watch and remember 15 in my life. Even the ugliest, most wearisome and brutal-to-watch-match played in a World Cup is 100 times better than anything else that can grace my television screen. I will tape it and I will watch it and I will love every second of it because I’m that addicted to the highest level of the beautiful game.

And I’ll pass myself the Cheetos, thank me very much.


Suarez vs. Chiellini: When Floppers Collide

Today, in Italy and Uruguay’s World Cup match, two of the sport’s most despicable stars converged upon one another in a moment so deplorable and typical, it could only leave one laughing at the clownish personas of these two characters.

So in case you are bereft of access to social media, or have been living in a cave without cable (lame), then here is what you missed:

You really couldn’t have witnessed a moment that more epitomized Italian football and the lunacy of Luiz Suarez simultaneously. It was fantastic.

First of all, the game itself was so foul it deserved a big, smelly dook smear to be left as an indelible image. Italy had already garnered a yellow card for a flying-Balotelli head kick and a red card for a lovely shin slash right in front of the referee. Fouls were piling up like a plate of meatballs while players on both sides were flopping about like soggy linguine. Italy’s flopper-magnifico Georgio Chiellini had already crumpled to the pitch so many times it began to look like the Azzuri were playing with 10 men and a pitiful, slowly dying insect.

Meanwhile, Uruguay’s repeat offender Luiz Suarez showed that he, too, was capable of souring a game with an endless display of histrionics every time he was touched. Any time a tackle came in Suarez might as well have been dismissed from a canon, grimacing like he was at the wrong end of a Jack Bauer interrogation.

To the viewer’s delight (or dismay), Chiellini and Suarez were naturally matched up against one another most of the game. Something grand or horrible was bound to happen in light of their remarkable talent and equally wearisome antics. And in a moment that will go down in flopper lore, Chiellini and Suarez disgraced themselves in ways most fitting.

When watching live, all you could see initially was the two men lying on the pitch, agonizing as usual, as if perhaps one looked at the other and couldn’t each help but feign aggravated assault. Or perhaps they collided awkwardly going for a ball, as often happens. But as the camera closes in, it appears Chiellini is legitimately hurt, clutching his head and neck, as if Suarez kicked or elbowed him. Suarez, meanwhile, is holding his mouth, as if Chiellini returned the favor and busted him in the mouth. And then we see the replay, and these two caricatures are exposed for the complete farces they in fact are! Suarez has apparently, for the third time in his hellustrious career (the third documented time, mind you) bit another man during a game, this time on Chiellini’s shoulder. And instead of punching Suarez in his cabeza, or just yelling “OWW!,” Chiellini falls over like he’s received a deathblow from a vampire. When in the history of mankind has a shoulder bite sent a man tumbling to the ground?! This is unprecedented! Only an Italian footballer could pull off such a pathetic feat! And then-THEN!- upon seeing Chiellini fall to the ground, Suarez grabs his mouth and immediately wilts to the mat. Holy shitake mushrooms. What, sir, will be your story? That your mischievous choppers which appear to have a perverse taste for sweaty soccer unis mistakenly found their way sunken into another player’s shoulder? And that hurt your mouth, so bad that it made you fall over? Oh, woe is you Luiz Suarez. I feel so horrible you once again must suffer the pain of aggressively gnawing on a man’s flesh like it’s a doggy bone. How grieved we are that you have once more endured the physical consequences of attempting an act that many trained beasts do not. I hope your mouth heals so that you will have another opportunity to chew an opponent’s arm off the next time FIFA lets you out on the field, assuming you are not banned for life or whisked away to solitary confinement with a Hannibal Lector-esque muzzle. Sheesh pots.

Needless to say, this lowlight in World Cup history will make for hilarious memes and banter for years to come. Hooray.

2014 World Cup Preview: Judging Group G by Team Patches

World-Cup-2014-Brasil-logoFull disclosure: If you are here for legitimate, thoughtful World Cup analysis then you are going to leave here as dumb as I am about this year’s tournament.

I’ve done no research. I’ve watched no friendlies. If I told you my pick it would solely be based on the last World Cup and how old or not old those players had gotten. Like Holland; they’re just not going to be as good because Arjen Robben is four years older and he already looked like he was 40 last time. And just ’cause Wayne Rooney magically grew hair since the last Cup doesn’t fool me into thinking England is going to dominate this Cup. And sorry USA, but Landon Donovan is not the pl…oh, nevermind. Maybe you’ll be fine.

Anyway, I just don’t know what to tell you about this Cup. Let’s see, umm, it’s being played in Brazil. Ronaldo will be there ready to do something awesome and then erect a statue of himself on the field. An Asian or Eastern European team will dazzle us unexpectedly and knock out another team we really care about. The French will look fantastic during La Marseillaise and then go play the most boring football in the world. Italy will make themselves impossible to score on and impossible to cheer for. Spain will tiki-taka their way to 1-nil victories and reach the final again. Some idiot will blow a vuvuzela only to have someone commandeer and subsequently bludgeon him with it. Michael Ballack will give us some rip-roaring analysis like “Ze Germans have played well zees half.” And Ian Darke will commentate poetically and make an inconsequential throw-in sound awesome. Crap I love this game.

But you know what? I don’t need analysis. I don’t need FIFA world rankings. I don’t need a match preview. Because I know the team’s patch. And a team’s patch says a lot about the team and the country. And I can look at the team patches of Group G (US’s group) and make what I believe will be an accurate prediction of the final group standings and match results. Let’s take a look.


Ze Germans have perhaps the greatest patch in world football. It is classic, bold and intimidating. It typifies German football. Like German wingers pummeling forward in a blitzkrieg counter-attack, this patch is aggressive and takes no prisoners. It is dark and menacing like a smoking Luger and is fashioned without a hint of nonsense. In the middle is a regal yet frightful beast; is it an eagle or a dragon? Who knows? That’s for you to find out when it is carrying you away in its teeth to some distant cave where you will be unceremoniously and efficiently devoured. That is the German football way. That is why they will be kings of their group, no different than any other Cup.



Next best patch is the Portuguese. No, there’s not some fierce, ambiguous animal in its crest, but there is a sweet shield and some mini-shields which you know nothing about. It’s so esoteric and aristocratic. They’re like, “We’re not telling you about the shields within the shield. You figure it out.” Additionally, the patch is outlined by a most excellent cross. It could simply be a religious symbol. Or it could be a religious symbol masking its true nature, a ninja star. Don’t let this little country fool you- that cross is a weapon, my friends. This patch is sharp and deadly, just like the Portuguese footballers. They will challenge the Germans, but the dreagle will always prevail.

hfaW_E_23rd Place- US

If Lee Greenwood made us “proud to be an American,” this patch has done the opposite. We are the most formidable country in the world and this is how we are representing ourselves? First of all, we don’t need to tell people we’re the US. They know. Other nations try to get a piece of us before we’ve hardly had a chance to put on our jockey straps. Secondly, the three stars are meaningless. I say either put on all friggin’ 50 or none at all. Instead we show three, which I can only surmise is an attempt to appear like a legit soccer nation who has won three World Cups. What will we do if we actually win a Cup? Will we put one star above the other three or try to make a super-cool star square? I guess winning a Cup is not something we’re particularly worried about. And then there’s the soccer ball, going way up in the air but definitely not goal-bound. My big question is why don’t we have some surly, snarling eagle on our patch? By golly we’ve earned it. It is a national symbol and we have won all the major wars, including two against Germany, who by the way is donning the dreagle without our permission. Truth is, until we start to regularly compete with the best of the best, our patch deserves to be mediocre.

ghana-fa4th Place- Ghana

Sorry Ghana, but your patch gets a zero on the fear factor. You, representing an African nation, have every right to put some remarkable wild animal on your patch. This patch is so normal I honestly don’t have anything else to write about it. Thanks for nothing.



Here are my predictions for the Group G fixtures (a.k.a. patch match prognostications):

Day 1: US 2- Ghana 1
              Germany 1- Portugal 1

Day 2: Portugal 2- US 1
Germany 3- Ghana 0

Day 3: Germany 2- US 1
Portugal 1- Ghana 1


What the Back of Your Truck Says About You

I’m a big fan of trucks. I don’t own one, but I really love people that do. Like my Dad. Dad is my master hauler. My home, inside and out, tends to produce loads of junk often. And a simple text message gets him to come over and take away my stuff to a place I’ll never see it again. Surely, if you don’t own a truck, you know a truck guy. And truck guy knows that any minute he’ll be asked for a favor, not necessarily because of his skill or his know-how or his brawn, but simply because he owns a machine that can move crap. Truck owner, we salute you.

badboypeeingfordcolorWithin the truck owner universe, there is a segment that takes great pride in either something about their truck or something about themselves. Either way, it often shows up in the form of a faddish, back window decal. One prime example is the famous urinating Calvin cartoon. What started as a simple statement of disdain for a particular NASCAR driver or truck brand evolved into a wide world of Calvin mischievously whizzing on just about anything, from gun control to mean people to city boys.

Now we don’t see those things at all. (At least in the city, where for all I know I’m just one of the naive boys being peed on.) I suspect one day some guy looked at his truck and thought, “maybe a picture on my ride of a boy peeing is not sending the best message about myself.” And if he thought that, he would be right. We can’t help but see a Calvin-whiz sticker without thinking its truck is being driven by a redneck.

07cac6b4c5c7524c8ea1db11dc35940fToday the truck guy decal-du-jour is the profile of a game animal. It’s a very simple and subtle symbol, but it essentially tells me that there is a particular something that you guys like to kill. A little odd, right? I mean, I’m so glad to know you have an affinity for shooting deer. For awhile there I was worried you may be one of those pansy duck-shooting types, but now I know venison is the noble quarry you covet.

The other day I saw a truck with all three decals; the buck, the duck and the fish. Is there any animal this man won’t kill? Seriously dude, what beasts are you terminating that they just haven’t made a truck sticker for yet? I can’t help but make these assumptions. The four seasons in this man’s life are deer, duck, fishing and quail. It seems if there is something legal to kill then by golly it’s your duty to do it. Not only if it flies it dies, but if it’s allowed, KA-POW! Catchy.

Do you own a game animal decal or seven? Are you mad at me? Are you polishing your 12-gauge and pretending I’m a duck in plain view sleeping on a lily pad? OK, I’m done mocking you. Let’s be friends again.

How to Watch Sports with Kids

guy-watching-sports-on-tv-D.Reichardt“What’s the blue ones and what’s the white ones?”

This is always the first question asked by my 3 1/2 year old boy when a game comes on. Like all of us, he wants to know who’s playing. But I think what he really wants to know is what animals are playing. “It’s the Jaguars vs. the Lions.” “Oooh, I like the Lions.”

After finding out the animal’s names, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen next. There’s a chance he could watch for five minutes and cheer indiscriminately. There’s a better chance in the next few seconds he’ll ask me to do something entirely different with him. And because I really don’t give a crap about the Jaguars or the Lions, I’ll probably oblige.

Winnie+the+Pooh+Life-Size+Cardboard+Stand-Up Super Bowl FootballWatching pretty much anything with little kids is next to impossible unless it’s a cartoon. But let’s face it, Winnie the Pooh is no Aaron Rogers. (I suppose Pooh is a lot more B.J. Raji.) Anyway, we have to get our sports fix somehow. So we sneak away from the tea party or Legoland and flip on the game in the other room. For a few minutes of fugacious bliss, we soak in the sports like sweat on Gary Williams’ suit coat. Inevitably, we are interrupted by some juvenile locomotive blaring nursery rhymes and its motorist flinging Nerf balls at our heads. At that point, the game is as good as over, and we are so thrilled to have broken away to catch three truck commercials and a pair of missed free throws.

But in my few short years as a father, I believe I’ve discovered a few tricks of the watch-sports-with-kids trade. 

Mommy sports nuts, you can try these too:

Golf- Forget watching the final round of a tournament. It’s way too slow for a little lad. Too much Jim Nance whispering about the azaleas and not enough Big Bertha swinging and Tiger club flinging. Instead, watch the first round. Everyone is still playing which means almost every shot is some guy trying to get it in the hole. A kid gets that. I’ve witnessed my boy watch a good 20 minutes of golf, excitedly anticipating every hole-bound ball and screaming like Happy Gilmore when it goes in. No final rounds though. Unceasing coverage of Brandt Snedeker tossing grass blades into the air does not move the meter for a three-year-old.

Horse Racing– You know what makes horse racing great on TV? The buildup. We get to hear the betting lines, the analysis, and all the captivating stories, from the jockey seeking redemption following a failed stint as a garden gnome to the two-year-old filly who likes to ease her nerves with a fifth of Kentucky bourbon before the race. Well, you can forget all that with a kid. Once it’s race time you have no idea who any horse is, what their odds are, and are questioning the whole point of turning the thing on in the first place. Then the bell sounds and you remember. Two minutes of the whole family screaming at the TV and not a damn clue what’s going on. There is mud and horses and tiny men whacking them with sticks and who is not entertained by that? The race ends, we catch our breaths, and Mr. Snuffleupagus is on before you can shout “HE WINS IT BY A NOSE!”

Soccer– Unlike horse racing, you don’t have a choice but to watch the buildup. That’s most of the game. The typical match has a total of about 60 really exciting seconds, and it’s not likely your kid is looking up for any of them. You have to convince them that the other stuff is really good, so you speak a variety of soccerisms until it’s drilled into their head. “Clever ball!” “Beautiful pass!” “A speculative effort!” “Sublime finish!” It helps to do it in a British accent, otherwise you just sound like an idiot. If your kid can one day decipher what a clever ball is and appreciate it, you’ve won. But good luck, because unless those clever balls are putting points on the board, there are going to be some grumblings from the wee-people.

Hockey– “Daddy, I want to watch something else.”

“You just have to follow the puck.”

“Where’s the puck?”

“I have a no idea.”


Alex Gets Fired


Brent called Alex into his office.

“Sit down Alex, I have some bad news. The company missed again on its annual sales goals. We’re going to have to make some layoffs. We are terminating your position effective immediately.”

“Good,” said Alex surprisingly. “Layoffs are a necessary part of every company. Are we eliminating the product placement division?”

“Yes,” said Brent, nonplussed by Alex’s casual demeanor. “Everyone in your division will be terminated.”

“Excellent,” exclaimed Alex excitedly. “Those guys struggled mightily. They’ve been bringing down our company for years.”

“Yes, and you do realize you are part of that division right?,” said Brent.

“Absolutely, and I couldn’t agree more with your decision. It will be sad to see them go, but we should be fine without them,” said Alex.

“You mean ‘we’ as in me and the other people who are not fired,” grumbled Brent.

“Precisely. But about that, Brent. I’m sorry…but…without the product placement division, you will have no one to manage. I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go,” said Alex, frowning.

“Alex, stop screwing around. I am your boss. You can’t fire me,” Brent exclaimed with a huff.

“And I don’t want to fire you, but corporate is forcing my hand. Let’s not make this any harder than it has to be,” said Alex.

Brent slammed his fist down on the table. “Ok, get out of my office, pack your things and leave the premises by 2 p.m.”

“Ahh, 2 p.m., no can do,” said Alex. “I have an important meeting with Brent.”

Brent erupted, “I’M BRENT!”

“Fantastic!” Alex beamed. “Great to meet you Brent, I guess I’m a little early for the interview. But once I heard about the job opening Alex vacated—well—I just had to come as soon as I could.”

Then, Brent killed Alex.


According to Jules: A Gangster’s Belief in Miracles

YaycpTlO5FgThroughout my life, I’ve vacillated quite significantly on what is, in fact, a miracle.

One reason may be that there are a lot of people in this world (most without actual miraculous experiences) who have a different definition of what a miracle is. And I don’t know if even at this point in my faith journey I can say what one is. But I can say what it is not.

 The character Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson) in Pulp Fiction has something to say about miracles. This comes after he has just bullet-riddled several low-key gangsters, only to find himself looking down the barrel of gun. But at close range, all of the bullets miss him (miraculously). The death-defying experience shakes Jules up pretty good, certainly a diversion from his usual cool self.

Jules determines he has witnessed a miracle. After failing to convince his partner Vincent that a miracle happened, he says this: “Whether or not what we witnessed was an According to Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What is significant is I felt the touch of God. God got involved.”

I used to love this quote. I’d post it on my AOL away message, so proud that a dirty gangster flick actually had something positive to say about God. But does it?

I won’t pick apart Jules’ quote here and try to prove why it’s all theologically bogus. I don’t know that it is. Perhaps some of it has some truth. But lately, the “God got involved” part hasn’t been sitting right with me.

First, I’ll acknowledge God getting involved in our lives is pretty amazing. It’s incredible to think an infinitely massive Creator cares a lick about little ole me. But I believe He does. Now, is it a miraculous thing for him to get involved in our lives? Maybe. Certainly I believe the spiritual realm exists outside of science. The spiritual realm cannot be measured, nor can it be subject to the laws of the very world it created. We understand miracles as existing outside of the scientific realm, particularly because miracles are initiated in the spiritual realm.

Notwithstanding, I’m not certain Jules is paying God a compliment in this context. When Jules says God got involved, he seems pretty shocked by this and has seemingly not experienced this before. Perhaps it was difficult for him to encounter the divine in a world where people regularly blew other people’s faces off. That would be understandable. But to say God got involved like it was abnormal is a very Deist way of looking at things, as if God is usually sitting on the sidelines and decides to come play in the game on rare occasions.

Instead, what if God is always involved? What if he is always present, always acting, always working for the good of those who love Him? My experience is that he is certainly not idle. Scripture tells us that for thousands of years He prepared the world for His Son, and thousands of years after His Son’s coming He is still moving, still saving, still involved.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on Jules. Maybe he really was impressed by God. But if we are waiting around to see something miraculous to prove to us that God is involved, we may be missing the point. I think God is always involved, and for that I’m in awe.

End Grim, But Grace

How frightfully fast its coming
Now quiescent ‘twas just running
Luminous eclipsed now dire
Motionless upon the pyre

If there is no Master
If no purpose in disaster
If our pages have no author
If fresh life cannot be offered

A ray cracks through the tomb
The breath of life consumes
Whose darkness can’t forfend
A beginning with no end