And in the 91st Minute…

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…Landon Donovan saves US Soccer by scoring against Algeria giving the Americans a 1-0 victory, their 7th overall in the World Cup all-time. In the process, the US wins Group C with 5 points, which is only the second time that they’ve won a group in World Cup history, the first being at the initial World Cup in 1930. What an amazing morning.
Out of these 7 wins, I distinctly remember all four that have happened in my lifetime:
In 1994, we defeated Columbia 2-1 our home soil helped in part by the Colombians scoring an own goal and made it through to the second round (where we lost to eventual champion Brazil).
In 2002, we gloriously upset Portugal 3-1 during group play and then surprised (though it was not a surprise to us) Mexico with a solid 2-0 victory in the second round to advance to the quarterfinals (where we gave a valiant effort and lost to Germany).
Today’s victory, which came in the most miraculous of circumstances, by a player I said in 2002 would be the future of US Soccer, is the best I’ve seen yet (though the thrilling super late night Portugal upset was ridiculously fun). My entire office was watching (and enjoying the free breakfast we won from the US/England 1-1 draw) by streaming the game through ESPN3 on a laptop and then hooking said laptop into a huge plasma TV. This is the second significant and emotional patriotic event that I’ve watched at work with colleagues – the other being Obama’s inauguration – and I’ve enjoyed both immensely. There was a large crowd today hanging on every near miss and while the first half was promising, the second half was desperate and as the near misses mounted, more and more dread crept into the room. I thought that the better chance of advancing laid at the feet of the Slovenians who in tying England would allow the US to go through but luckily that didn’t need to happen. In injury time, at the plus one of four mark, everyone just erupted when Donovan put a ricochet in the back of the net. I was unable at first to enjoy, too paranoid that this too would be improbably called back but no, there was no goal stealing by the refs this time, this was a real goal, and a real cathartic release as the US lived up to its potential and I ran around giving high fives to the true footie fanatics there, the ones who knew like me how much this meant.
It’s more than just going through to the second round. When I say that Donovan saved the sport in this country, I’m not kidding. The US had to win this match today or else soccer would have been looked down upon for not only another four years but possibly decades if not even longer. It would have lost its legitimacy.
A good friend of mine who loves all domestic sports (i.e. baseball, football and basketball), loves the Olympics (so he doesn’t dislike global competition) and most importantly loves hockey (soccer’s second cousin) couldn’t believe that the US didn’t beat Slovenia and couldn’t believe that the go-ahead goal was disallowed. Between that call and the endless flopping and diving that he saw during the US’s and other team’s matches, he was telling me how he just didn’t get soccer, that it was more theatre than sport and how while he would like to care more, the nonsense annoys him and thus he is a true once every four years fan. This Landon Donovan goal, and the never say die attitude of the US squad that allowed it to happen (cue Tim Howard’s amazing throw that started the 4 on 2 counterattack), is the greatest example of what our national style looks like and how soccer will win over people like my friend. We like winners in America and the US Team winning when it can and should is a welcome change to the previous 20 years worth of WC history.
As an aside, I’ve been reading tons of articles and watching the goal over and over again. I can’t wait to replicate Landon’s superman dive on a slip and slide soon. Out of all the things I’ve read so far, nothing was as much fun as this ESPN “Off the Ball” blog’s tremendously good post on how it’s time to start believing.
As another aside, a sign that we are becoming a real soccer nation is that we finally have an good yet slightly cheesy unofficial World Cup anthem of our own, like say England’s Vindaloo. Weezer’s “Represent” is a fantastic footie anthem and a welcome surprise – it turns out River Como is a huge footie fanatic and he made sure he caught the US / England match while at Bonnaroo. The song is immediately going on my running mix. It’s also below – crank up the speakers and get ready for Saturday when we play Ghana. They beat us 2-1 in 2006 but if we beat them this time around, which is entirely possible, then we play either Uruguay or South Korea in the quarterfinals. To dream of greatness, yet another sign of becoming a real footie nation. Enjoy the song.


More on Brain Rewiring

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Seemingly right after I became acquainted with the whole “Too Much Tech at Once is Bad!” idea through Mr. Nicholas Carr, the Gray Lady featured not one but two articles on this subject along with an interactive quiz designed to show how if you are a heavy multi-tasker what has happened to your cognitive abilities.
The first article is titled Hooked on Gadgets and Paying a Mental Price and is about how:

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

If you surf the web (um, you are reading this blog) and/or use a computer to navigate and manage your life , this is a must read article. It’s long, but worth it.
The second article is titled An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness and I think the title speaks for itself. This is also a must, ans much shorter, read.
The Test Your Focus and Test How Fast You Juggle Tasks quizzes are an eye opener. I for one have tried to check my email less and I’m making more of a concerted effort to get through my magazine backlog and to get to the books on my list.
What does this all mean? Like so much else in this wide world, moderation is key. Too much of anything in excess is bad, m’kay?


World Cup Fever: 2010 Edition

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The World Cup is back and I am just so so happy. This event is a special anchor for me in my life – I’ve been playing footie since I was six – so before we get into this year’s edition of the Coupe du Mondel, let me quickly go over some high level thoughts from the others before I get to 2010’s first weekend:
1990 – I start to officially care about the World Cup as this is the first one the US participates in since the 1950. I, like the rest of the part of America that actually cares about soccer (maybe 1% of the population), is happy to simply be there and only am sort of embarrassed when the Czechs beat the US 5-1. I am in Niagara Falls for the final and remember people marching around the streets with the West German flag after they win the championship
1994 – I am super enthused about how WC fevor hits the US and the nation stops to care, a little. “Los Gringos” advances to the second round and the Columbian responsible (Columbia loses to the US on an own goal) is murdered back home a week later. The US is able to parlay this success into the founding of Major League Soccer – which is (thankfully) still alive and kicking over 15 years later.
1998 – I am luckily in Europe for the most of the event and watch games in England and Ireland before catching the semis and final back in the States. I catch a ferry back from the Aran Islands to Galway in time to watch the US lose to Iran with other ex-pats and am dismayed. Three Lions taking on Vindaloo was better than the event itself.
2002 – I’m out of work recovering from a bad car accident and keep myself busy by making and updating a fan site and by watching as many matches in a bar as possible. You would be surprised how many people are awake at 3 AM and 5 AM to watch footie. The US’s amazing run to the quarter finals gives me hope for the future and a great distraction to enjoy while I’m convalescing.
2006 – I watch USA bomb out in the first round though enjoy an amazingly great day in NYC (see this post from 2006 for more details). I watch England lose on penalty kicks to Portugal in the San Diego airport and watch the final at a beach bungalow in the Diego with friends.

2010 – So far, so good. My office trash talks up a storm with the London office and wins free breakfast when the US “wins” 1-1.
I watched the USA / England game at home on Sat with wife and child and was delighted by the effort shown by the Ameriks. Even though they fell behind, they were composed, they showed poise and fought hard. Hells bells – they even almost won when Jozy hit the post towards the end of the match.
On Sunday I was able to watch the first half of Germany / Australia match at Carlow East – nothing beats WC matches in a bar talking to total strangers about all things footie. My friend for five minutes (aka the dude sitting next to me at the bar) told me to watch out for Kuyt on the Netherlands and sure enough he scored their second goal today. I cannot wait for Friday – I just hope the Ameriks get 3 points (or 1 at the least considering that Slovenia beat Algeria and has 3 points already) out of the deal.


World Cup at the White House

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Our government’s reaction to English keeper Robert Green’s error during this past Saturday’s Group C opening match, which allowed the American squad to tie the England in their match this past Saturday, is below:
‘ Nuff said.
Via Anthony


Rewiring Your Brain

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As you might know or gather from my previous 800 or so posts, I’m a web professional during the day. I write a lot of emails. I type a lot of documents. My fingers bother me tremendously by the end of the day. I’m 33. My hands feel 99. I really think that this prevents from writing more lately, because when I’m done with the day, I’m done – as much as blog posts flitter across my mind, I never get the nerve to write them down because writing hurts. Maybe that is why I’m listening to Trent Reznor’s new outfit “How to Destroy Angels” while I type this – I hurt myself today, to see if I still write.
In the latest issue of Wired, Nicholas Carr writes a very compelling article about how the ‘net literally rewires your brain, some for good, some for bad. It’s backed up by science and it confirms a suspicion I’ve had for a long time, because I got hooked on the ‘net in 1995 and therefore have been using it for 15 years now. “Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.” I think that’s true for a lot of people, and sheepishly I think it’s true for me as well.
The article titled “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains” goes on to say:

The ability to scan and browse is as important as the ability to read deeply and think attentively. The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for further study, it’s becoming an end in itself—our preferred method of both learning and analysis. Dazzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.

Yikes. Personally, I do not believe I’m there. I think that my attention span is scattered because my parents are selling my childhood home at the exact same time I am supervising a full house renovation in NJ while living in NY in a small one bedroom apartment with an 8 month along pregnant wife and a 2 year old while working a stressful full-time job.