Monthly Archives: June 2010

World Cup 2010: Now What?

Just like that, the United States national soccer team is out of the World Cup.

I’m incredibly disappointed that we didn’t capitalize on a favorable draw (England, Slovenia, and Algeria), nor a quite realistic route to the semi-finals (Ghana -> Uruguay/South Korea). So what now? Who should we cheer? Who should we jeer?

Far be it from me to tell you who to pull for or against, but most Americans could use a little help, so here it goes.

– FOR –

Spain – They play beautiful attacking soccer. They haven’t quite lived up to their full potential in the group stage, but it would be great for soccer viewers everywhere if Spain stays around. It would be nice to see them win their first World Cup after decades of underachieving. [On a selfish note, Cesc Fabregas plays for them]

The Netherlands – While they don’t quite live up to the Total Football of the nation’s glory days, the Oranje are dedicated to attacking soccer. Add a match-ready Arjen Robben, and the Dutch are ready to dazzle. They, like Spain, have yet to win a World Cup, and it would make for a good World Cup to see them in the final. Also, their language is hilariously entertaining to hear.

Japan – Why pull for Japan? First, they’re major underdogs. Secondly…Nintendo, Honda, hibachi, Sony: need I say more? We’ll forgive them for anime, by the way. Japan have little to lose, and there’s something mesmerizing about watching image-conscious Japanese soccer players fight their way to victory.

Brazil – Everyone knows that Brazil rules international soccer. Names like Pelé, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Kaká have been synonymous with excitement. While their manager, Dunga, has emphasized a less-aggressive (and maybe less-Brazilian) style, Brazil are still always a great draw for soccer fans. It benefits the tournament to see them go far, though perhaps not as much to win it, as they have already won five times.

– AGAINST –

Mexico – They dive, they cry, and they complain their way to victory. Welcome to Mexican soccer, where eleven prima donnas prance around the pitch until someone gets within a few feet of them. Then they fall, grab a random appendage, and scream in agony until a referee pulls out a yellow card to administer to a helpless opponent. They’re the U.S. team’s biggest rivals, and they’ve found their way into good form. If you root for anything, root for them to return to reality and lose. [Note: I actually don’t have anything bad to say about their young striker, Chicharito.]

[EDIT – I’m not feeling as harsh against Mexico today. I’m actually pulling for a great game for them against Argentina – 1:34 PM 06/27/2010]

Portugal – The world’s most hated player also happens to be one of the best, but Cristiano Ronaldo alone is reason to hope for Portugal’s exit. Known as one of the world’s most prominent divers (video proof – fast forward to the replay), Ronaldo leads a team full of jock brats that are very difficult to like, even though their brand of soccer is certainly fast-paced and attack-driven. [more Ronaldo divingand more …and more!]

Uruguay – More brats. More diving. And they have Luis Suárez. You get the point.

Ghana – They’re the only African team to make it to the round of 16, and it’s hard to root against Africans from any nation (other than Egypt, Libya, etc.). Those guys are so good-natured. However, they eliminated the U.S. for the second Cup in a row, and for this they deserve to perish.

– UNSURE –

Germany – The Germans showed a brilliant attacking mentality in the 2006 World Cup, but c’mon…they’re German. Germans are boring. Germans are a bit too organized and bland. Right? Or am I? We’ll see.

Argentina – It’s difficult for me to not hate Argentina. They dive. They whine. They actually like Maradona. But Argentina has the world’s best player, Messi, and every tournament needs its superstar. He’s brilliant on the pitch, but off the pitch is quiet, humble, and dignified. He’s the anti-Maradona! I don’t know about these guys…

England – I have always pulled for the U.S. first and England second, but the entire country is getting on my nerves. Their last World Cup win was in 1966 (at home), and ever since that time, the media and fans have put an ever-escalating pressure on their national team. The sad fact is that England is a bit overrated, but the media and fans expect them to deliver, OR ELSE! I have nothing against the English team, but plenty against the supposed fans who booed them off the pitch in their group match against Algeria. Settle down, England. Settle down.

– APATHETIC –

Chile, Paraguay, and Slovakia – I literally have nothing of value to say. They’ll be gone soon, and we probably won’t remember them at all, unless one of the players decides that they’re already losing and might as well live out Ray Steven’s song “The Streak” on the biggest stage of all.

Don’t stop caring, America! There’s still a lot more soccer to enjoy.

Round of 16 recommendations:

Germany/England, Sunday, June 27 – 9:00 AM CST
Mexico/Argentina – Sunday, June 27 – 1:30 PM CST
Netherlands/Slovakia – Monday, June 28 – 9:00 AM CST
Spain/Portugal – Tuesday, June 29 – 1:30 PM CST

[Note: all of these games are available for replay online on ESPN3, with many of the games featured live ]

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Loyalty

LeBron James is arguably the best basketball player on the planet. “King James” is also 26-years-old, handsome, articulate, marketable, and just downright, slap-your-momma cool. His body is a genetic wonder, perfectly designed to play basketball as well as anyone in history. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, and has played in nearby Cleveland for the first seven years of his already-celebrated career, averaging an absurd (for this time period) 27.8 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game.

No athlete of James’ caliber means as much to a city as he does to Cleveland. The cold, shrinking community is home to some of the most depressing teams in sports: the Browns (NFL), Indians (MLB), and Cavs (NBA). LeBron’s very presence and ability virtually guaranteed them that their championship drought might soon come to an end. All he needs is a cohesive and able supporting cast, capable coaching, and time.

But LeBron might be leaving.

James’ contract with Cleveland has expired, and teams across the league have been awaiting the moment for at least two years. The New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Chicago Bulls, and Miami Heat have all cleared salary cap space for King James, and all will be competing for his interest this off-season.

His options break down this way:

1. Chicago (The Winning Option) – James would be immediately be surrounded by an exceptional core of young, talented players, including Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and Luol Deng. Simply put, Chicago seemingly gives James his best bet at winning a championship in 2011. Of course, comparisons with another number 23 would intensify, but if James is most concerned with winning, it would be easiest wearing black and red.

2. New York (The Fame Option) – None of the previously mentioned teams have been as bold as the Big Apple in their determination to win the Summer of 2010 sweepstakes. The Knicks are a team with a proud history, but have been unable to win a championship since 1973; LeBron is believed to be capable of changing their history.

Side note: the Knicks are my most hated team in the NBA. I blame their fans.

3. New Jersey (The Stupid Option) – The Nets are moving to Brooklyn (and might even change their nickname). Having recently bought by a bizarre Russian billionaire, the Nets have plenty of cap space for LeBron, but they play second fiddle in the region, and offer little more than a “New York Lite” option. Don’t bite, LeBron. Forget what Rocky IV tried to teach you; in real life you can’t trust the Russians. Ever.

4. Miami (The Buddy Option) – Dwyane Wade loves Miami. Miami loves D-Wade. D-Wade loves LeBron. LeBron loves D-Wade. Miami wants LeBron. Does LeBron want Miami? Will Smith thinks so, but I think it’s best if the two superstars maintain a long-distance relationship. They’d just get in each other’s way.

5. Cleveland (The Loyal Option) – If LeBron wins in New York, he’ll be New York’s most recent hero. If he wins in Chicago, he’ll still pale in comparison to MJ unless he wins as many titles. If he wins in Miami, the city will barely notice. If he wins in Cleveland, he’ll be the most popular Ohioan in history, period.

His birthday would become an official state holiday. Parents across the state will name their boys “LeBron” for the next 25 years. People would collapse in the streets with tears of joy running down their cheeks.

But it would symbolize something greater than a win: it would say “our favorite son was born here, grew up here, lived here, played here, rejected the fame and adoration of the larger cities, and brought us what we’ve painfully desired for years: a championship. He is one of us!”

People desire money, comfort, and adoration, but they respect loyalty. LeBron is already the most marketable figure in the game of basketball, but a move to New York (or to a lesser extent, Chicago) would ensure even greater financial opportunities. To deny the allure of the Big Apple would be to deny the power of his own ego.

Woodrow Wilson said, “Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.” To resist the pull of New York and Chicago and instead remain committed to bringing Cleveland a championship would be the most selfless and loyal act that the sporting world has seen in many years.

Everyone respects loyalty.

LeBron: stay home, push yourself further to win, and retire happy as Cleveland’s eternal hero.

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iPhone 4

As usual, Apple detractors are turning their nose up at the latest upgrade to Apple’s iPhone line, the iPhone 4. Unfortunately for those people, the newly announced features make the phone more compelling (or even more compelling, depending on who you ask) than the Android phones that are on the market.

Here’s why this iPhone upgrade matters:

1. THE PROCESSOR

iPhone 4 features the same A4 processor found in the iPad. What this means is that the iPhone will be mind-numbingly fast. The iPad almost never lags, even as it is performing fairly complex processes. The A4 processor within the iPhone was almost certainly a necessity considering the iPhone 4 will ship with the new iOS, bringing multitasking to the iPhone for the first time. Speaking of which…

2. MULTITASKING

We’ve known this was coming for several months, but I felt it’s necessary to address Android and Windows Mobile users’ claims that multitasking should have been included all along since their mobile OS has featured it for quite some time. I respond with a question: have you actually used multitasking on an underpowered phone? It’s almost unusable, and it drains battery life quicker than you can say, “Cardinal Ratzinger.” And as we all know, a quickly-draining battery on a phone is unforgivable, especially when you’re out and about for long periods of time.

3. RETINA DISPLAY

In case you haven’t read up, the Retina Display is Apple’s way of saying, “Oooooooo, pretty!” According to popular tech blog Engadget (iPhone 4 Hands-on):

“We’re not being hyperbolic when we say it’s easily the best looking mobile phone screen we’ve ever laid eyes on.”

A screen that is easier to read means less strain on the eyes. It’s now running at a 960×640 resolution, and according to those who have seen in the device in person, it has to be seen to be believed (much like the iPad).

4. MIC + SPEAKER

Much like the A4 processor, people seem to be overlooking this feature as well. Apple has two mics: one next to your mouth, and another on top of the device. Why? It allows for noise-cancellation technology to do its work, helping you sound clearer and crisper to the person on the other end of the line. Nuances like this help make a product a cut above.

5. CAMERA, LED FLASH, AND FACETIME

The iPhone 4 now includes 720p high definition video recording. I’m sure it won’t replace my Flip Ultra HD, but it’s definitely a nice feature to have, especially now that you’ll be able to edit the video on the iPhone using iMovie for the device. The LED flash is no big surprise (and a bit late to the party, to be honest), but the front-facing camera which allows for Apple’s FaceTime video chatting is definitely a welcome addition. The ability to switch between the front-facing and back-facing cameras with a press of a button is nice. You’ll be able to show people what you’re looking at, then switch back with minimal effort.

The camera is now 5 megapixels, by the way. I just thought you should know.

6. HARDWARE REDESIGN

We’ve all dropped our iPhone a time or two (cracked screens, anyone?). The iPhone 4 will feature flat sites, along with a flat back. This might seem to be a subtle change, but I believe it will make the phone more usable and steady.

It’s gorgeous. 1/4 thinner than the current iPhone 3Gs, the iPhone 4 will also feature a new glass screen. I’ll use AppleInsider’s article to help explain:

The front and back are made of aluminosilcate glass, chemically strengthened to be 30 times harder than plastic, more scratch resistant and more durable than ever. The front and back glass have an oil-resistant coating that helps keep it clean, and encircling iPhone 4 is a highly finished stainless steel band made of a custom alloy that is forged to be five times stronger than standard steel.

Additionally, the structure of the phone is now connected to the antennas, giving the iPhone 4 stronger reception.

7. BATTERY LIFE

The new hardware also has a larger battery that offers longer uptime, including 7 hours of talk time 3G, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 300 hours of standby.

Battery life is absolutely crucial to the value of a mobile device. Apple has clearly taken note of the incredible reception the iPad’s battery life has received, and made sure the iPhone 4 won’t skimp on the juice.

8. GYRO & ACCELEROMETER

The iPhone 4 will feature a 2-axis gyroscope and accelerometer that will be able to detect “much more precise movement,” according the Steve Jobs. This, in short, will be good for games and gesture-based commands. I’m not personally ecstatic over this upgrade, but there are quite a few who seem to be excited by it.

In short, this iPhone upgrade makes the most popular smartphone on the planet more functional, more usable, and cooler (it’s an Apple device, after all).

There is a reason that you hear countless stories about Blackberry users, Android users, and Windows Mobile users switching to the iPhone, but almost never hear of others going the opposite direction: the iPhone is still the best smartphone on the market. I’m excited that Android has brought legitimate competition to Apple, but after having used several of the devices (and gathering opinions from those using them), I can still say that I’m quite secure in being an iPhone fanboy.

And yes, I’ll be getting one to replace my barely-functional iPhone 3G. And I’m getting white.

And no, white is not girly.

For more reading, go to Apple’s web-site, laden with PR terminology – http://www.apple.com/iphone/

For Engadget’s coverage of the iPhone, click the following link – http://www.engadget.com/2010/06/07/iphone-4-announced/