For Love of The Game

This month is chalked full of amazing soccer games. My love of soccer is rivaled, perhaps, only by my lover of writing, and this month soccer may win out. Why? Because two huge international competitions are being held. First, and already in progress, is the Copa America Centenario, the 100th anniversary of the oldest international soccer tourny in the world. On June 10th the European Championship begins in France, which is also bound to be extraordinary.

The other day, however, I went to a game in Seattle. Now, Seattle Sounder fans are a bit notorious for being Seattle fans first and soccer fans second–sadly the attendance at this game showed the truth of this all too well. The match was between Haiti and Peru. Two teams that never make the big stage of the World Cup. Peru has potential, and they showed flashes of it against Haiti, but Haiti never makes the World Cup and typically is a completely overlooked country in much more than just soccer.

The stadium is a 67,000 pot, but only 20,000 people came for the game. This is a major international competition, and yes, these were B teams of the tournament. They don’t have the recognizable players like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico do, but a love for the game is supporting the games that are smaller–because the play can still be great, the game exciting. But Seattle fans are fans of themselves, it seems, not so much of the sport.

On the 14th Argentina and Bolivia will face off in Seattle, and I expect attendance to be much higher then. If Messi is likely to step onto the field, more people are likely to show up.

The European Championship, on the other hand, is stacked for some intriguing and exiting matches. Germany must be the clear favorite. Their dominance in the 2014 World Cup was incredible and amazing to witness. But Spain, France, Italy, Holland, and even England, can’t ever be ruled out. Then there are the dark horses, or sleepers. Wales has made the Euros for the first time (maybe ever, I’m not sure), as has Iceland–which I’m hoping show well for themselves as it’s one of my top destinations for future traveling. With so much soccer coming up I don’t know how I’ll get anything done at all this month.

7/2/15 The Women’s World Cup

The Women’s World Cup has been an outstanding success thus far, and we still have the final to look forward to.

In my opinion this world cup has been nearly as good as last years. Sure, we haven’t had the fairy tale story of Costa Rica making it to the quarterfinals, or the shocking blowout of Brazil losing 7-1 to Germany, which was quite likely the most surprising and astonishing game of soccer I have ever seen in my short life. But we have seen Australia win their first ever knockout round match (men or women), we’ve seen England make it to only their third ever semifinal in world cup history (this includes the men’s team world cup history), but the first time the English Women’s National Team had ever made it that far–only to go out on one of the most bizarre goals yet seen in a world cup. Absolutely devastating for the player involved as well as a country that has been yearning for a successful national team since 1966.

Now, on Sunday we see a rematch of epic proportions. Nobody gave Japan a chance back in 2011 and this time around I’m not giving them much either. After the USA’s display against the most vaunted attack and what seemed to be the most complete team in the tournament, in germany, I can’t see what is going to slow the USA down.

Jill Ellis has made some very important tactical changes to the starting line up over the last couple days which has given Carli Lloyd more freedom in the attacking third, and she has proved to the world she is ready to shoulder that responsibility. While Alex Morgan has been coming off an injury, having her play a full 90 minutes against Germany was, perhaps a bit much for her, as she’s still shaking off the rust–however, it is good to know she can go the distance, if not the 120 minutes it might take if Japan is able to take USA to overtime in the final. But how many people were thinking of Morgan’s shot which went right at the German keeper even though she was on a complete breakaway, when Sasic stepped up to the penalty spot only to miraculously miss German women’s first ever penalty kick in a world cup, bringing their conversion record to 17-1.

This drama has been nearly as great as that of last summer’s. The difference I suppose is having a team with a chance of winning. Did anyone think the USMNT would ever actually make it past Belgium last summer? Sure, we played them toe-toe well into overtime, but Belgium, with all their star power, was a horribly underperforming team. Even with the chance Wondo decided to put wide, which would have seen us make the quarters for the first time since 2002, the USMNT chances of beating Belgium were slim, and eventually, in that game, Belgium found the quality they needed.

But now some different American’s have made it to the final. The way they’ve got there hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been enough, and just maybe, it will give the United States a reason to cheer about soccer.

10/20/14

Back then I had hair that hung down well past my shoulders. I’d tie it back in a ponytail. Apparently that didn’t change how the Sea-Tac security felt about me once I landed in Seattle. No sooner had a lifted my bag off the conveyer belt did a woman in uniform ask me to “come this way please.”

Random my ass.

I shouldn’t have written down that I had gone to the Netherlands on my little customs form. I should have left it at Germany, UK, Spain and Italy, because that’s where I had told my school I was going. Instead I had gone all over. Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, Scotland, and Portugal were added to the list. After bumping into some infuriating French people in Amsterdam I had concluded that France could wait.

Back in Seattle the lady lead me over to the “Random” back search line. It had been very difficult to fit everything in my bag, as I only had one and I’d picked up some things when I was in Europe as souvenirs, naturally. The woman then proceeded to take everything I had in my bag and shake it out and go through the pockets and then toss it to the side.

Once everything from every pocket had been strewn all over the table she said,

“Alright. You can put everything back now,” as if she was disappointed she hadn’t found something wrong with my stuff.

I wasn’t an idiot. I wasn’t going bring back a bunch of pot or mushrooms or something like that. It took me a long time to pack everything back into my bag. The whole while the woman was dismantling someone elses carefully packed bag and tossing the things in my direction, glancing at me from time to time as if it were my fault my stuff had been unpacked.

I wondered if she’d EVER found anything dangerous. Probably not. Here she was, thinking she was protecting the USA from terrorists, but really what she was doing was invading normal peoples privacy. The paradox of the false positive strikes again.

For those of you who don’t know what the paradox of the false positive is there is a wonderful book called “Little Brother,” by Cory Doctorow, that explores that issue. It’s a YA book, but blew my mind even when I was in my early twenties. For you who don’t want to take the time to read that book I’ll try to explain the false positive paradox here.

When you’re conducting a search for something that’s very very rare, lets say, since I was just searched in an airport, a terrorist, the instrument with which you search needs to be very precise. New York City is a city of 8.4 million people. In New York City there are probably three or four terrorists at any given time. If you have a instrument, or proceeding that is really good at catching terrorists, lets say 99% effective that means 1 person out of 100 will be singled out as a terrorist when they actually aren’t. In a city of 8.4 million people that means this test would find. This means the test would tell the tester there are 84,000 terrorists in New York City. Despite have a test that tells the truth 99% of the time the test is actually inaccurate to a startling degree. The sad thing is, however, that most procedures to find terrorists aren’t even close to 99% effective. Their more like 60% or 40% because, really? What does a terrorist look like?