Soccer, a.k.a. football; and lies on the Internet

The first time I ever even had a passing interest in soccer was watching some eight-year olds play in the early 1980s. Now my daughter has participated the last couple years, so I’ve become vaguely informed about the nuances. The Daughter wants one of those new soccer balls, called a brazuca, but I hear it costs $160; not happening.

Not that I would dis anyone who didn’t like the sport because they thought it was boring; I used to think so myself. But I figuratively rolled my eyes at certain Americans with their observations. Ann Coulter and her “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of moral decay” is self-evidently idiotic, but I note the source.

I was more annoyed, actually, with sportscaster Keith Olbermann, who suggested that the US shouldn’t have advanced to the knockout round because Portugal was the better team, based on “momentum.” If we were seeding the March Madness men’s basketball playoffs, one can factor in “momentum.” But it seemed to me to be the height of arrogance to suggest such a change at FIFA, who’s been doing this World Cup thing, in a sport most Americans still do not understand, since 1930. Keith should butt out.

Now satirical analysis, such as the piece Ken Levine provided, is welcome.

A female friend of mine noted, not just that the players collectively are quite buff, but that even her most macho-sounding male friends were making the same observations. And I noticed that the refs in these games have to move nearly as much as the players.

I saw bits and pieces of the earlier matches. But I managed to see the last 77 minutes of the epic 120-minute match between the US and Belgium, which the Americans lost 2-1, despite epic goal play by Tim Howard, the most saves in at least 50 years. After the US scored its goal at 107 minutes, I was on my feet the rest of the match, a clear sign I was really into that game.

Moreover, I started figuring out the notations online for yellow card (penalty), substitution, and how much extra time would be allowed per period. I enjoyed it more because I understood it more than I ever have before. Still think the stoppage time is weird to me, and seemingly arbitrary, but maybe it’ll make sense, eventually.

Amy Biancolli writes about the thrill of a good loss. And mostly unrelated, here’s a comic about the Existential World Cup.

Early on, I picked Argentina to win the World Cup. I figured it was a strong team that didn’t have so far to travel, and that the host Brazilians would wilt under the pressure. If the US HAD won its Belgium game, it would have been up against Argentina, and I would have had a quandary. OK, I wouldn’t really; it’d just be a classic head/heart bifurcation.

Oh, here’s something I don’t get: about a week into the World Cup, I saw an article that indicated that the Argentina team had been banned from play because of some infraction. When I click on the article, it was one of those GOTCHA phony stories, and I was 123,456th person (or whatever) to fall for it. As someone who values real information, the site made me irritable. (But not the temporary change in the Wikipedia entry for U.S. Secretary of Defense to ‘Tim Howard’, which was an obvious prank.)

It was the second time in less than a month I saw the more annoying version of this; some guy from Walking Dead, a show I never had watched, supposedly died. But it was another “GOTCHA to click through to this lie, dummy” thing.

I understand that one has to verify things, say, that one sees on Facebook. Designing Women actor Meshach Taylor died late on June 28 – at age 67, sad (yes, I watched the show) – and his family had announced that he had begun his “grand transition” on June 27. So some people began posting news of his death soon afterwards. I waited until I had seen sources I trusted (both the LA Times and the Hollywood Reporter, which is generally good with deaths of celebrities) before I would post it.

But I’ve seen any number of people who refused to believe that an event happened because they read it on Facebook, and “Facebook can’t be trusted.” I’m not talking about anything mildly controversial, such as climate change; I’m talking PAST weather reports from NOAA.

I distinguish this from obvious parody: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LITTLE CAESAR’S RIGHT TO FEED CHRISTIAN EMPLOYEES TO LIONS.

OK, one more pet peeve often posted on Facebook: it’s this calendar showing, e.g., August 2014, which has five Fridays, five Saturdays, and five Sundays. And the graphic says, “This won’t happen again for another 863 years.” But the calendar for 2014 is EXACTLY the same as the calendar for 2003, 1997, 1986, and will be repeated in 2025, 2031, and 2042. Moreover, any month with 31 days in which the 1st falls on Friday, is in this category. Examples from recent past and near future: January 1988*, 2010, 2016* and 2021; March 1996*, 2013, 2019 and 2024*; May 1992*, 2009, 2015 and 2020*; July 1988*, 2011, 2016* and 2022; August 2008* and 2036*; October 2004*, 2010, 2021 and 2032*; December 2000*, 2006, 2017 and 2028*. *leap years.

This meme is so OBVIOUSLY wrong (to me), that the fact that SO many people have sent it shows a certain math phobia, or unawareness. Ah, an interesting observation that I can add to a book review I’m doing…

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