Hope Resilient

The Women’s Soccer semifinal between the United States and Brazil was one of the greatest sports matches I’ve seen, let alone the greatest soccer game. It was breathtaking, frustrating, and ultimately gratifying; eliciting every emotion possible over a game.

The U.S. got a goal within the first two minutes ((Granted, it was an own-goal by Brazil, but in soccer, you take whatever you can get.)) and held onto this lead for the rest of the first half, despite some really close chances by Brazil that had you on the edge of your seat. You had a good feeling about the game, America was holding its own.

Then FIFA happened. Shortly into the second half, everything seemed to go wrong. Buehler got a questionable red card and Brazil was awarded a penalty kick. Tension set in. Hope Solo made a magnificent save, but for naught as the refs struck again with another poor call, a yellow card for Solo, and a re-do of the penalty kick. Brazil’s All-Star player, Marta ((Do all their players have single-name names?)), took the PK and scored.

Ok so it was only tied and— Brazil suddenly scored again. Offside, but uncalled. So clearly the refs are one-sided and the U.S. would have to beat them and Brazil while down to only ten players. Then Brazil pulled out the flopping and diving shenanigans to run the clock down. ((This is one of the huge reasons I despise soccer. There were no signs of it for most of the game, and it wasn’t that prevalent in the previous three matches, so I was enjoying it more than the 2010 World Cup. It apparently exists in all variants of the sport, sadly. )) A player walked around after a corner kick, fell to the ground in agony, had to be stretchered off, then after twenty feet on the stretcher, hopped off and ran back into the game. Pathetic. It was almost hopeless, the clock ran out, there’s only three minutes of extra play. We had already been a player down for fifty-five minutes and no goals, what would an extra three help?

And then, when hope was at its nadir and everyone watching seemed to resign themselves to another controversy-laden loss, the latest goal in World Cup history was scored. ((It’s definitely the latest goal in the Women’s World Cup, but Wikipedia’s records page has the latest goals at the 120 and 121 minute marks. So I’ll go with overall, because that’s even better. )) Rapinoe made a high pass across the box, and then Wombach buried it. Prevailing against all the odds, down a player, and against a powerhouse in the soccer world.

While the shootout was a little bit underwhelming, it was great to see Hope Solo make a clutch save to give the U.S. a chance to win. At the end of the day, it took a total team effort to come away with a win. The amount of heart and determination displayed by the women was as close to the mentality of playoff hockey as I’ve seen in any other sport.

And the best part of all? A European-dominated crowd cheering for America. I don’t expect that to happen in today’s game against France, but it was nice to see happen.

Also, another great thing about this World Cup? No vuvuzelas.


Karma on the Willowemoc

It was the last night of the annual fishing trip to the Catskills. I was already far ahead in making up for the previous year when I went home empty-handed. On the first night out this year, I had caught a fourteen-inch brown trout within the first ten or so casts. After that, I could relax and just enjoy the escape. There’s no feeling like not having any pressure to catch something. Especially when you’re first. Over the course of the week, I had caught an additional two or three smaller trout, nothing worth taking a picture of or remembering in detail.

My dad parked the car at the cabin the rest of our group was staying at. They were already fishing upstream. We put our waders and vests on, assembled our fishing rods, and walked across the road to the bridge. It was perfect, there were only three people there. One guy just out to the left of the bridge, one guy a little ways downstream, one guy just on the other side of the bridge. Plenty of room. There had easily been eight or so anglers crowded in this area the first night.

We stand on the riverbank, tying flies onto our lines, assessing the water and looking for where the fish are rising. The guy in the middle of the three people on the river turns around and sees us on the bank. He immediately turns ninety degrees to his left and starts casting directly downstream.  It was a completely selfish, passive-aggressive move that said, “Go somewhere else. This is mine.” He does this a few more times, then turns completely around, faces upstream, and starts casting again, completely perpendicular to any reasonable intent. “I need all of this. I refuse to share.”

Not only was this bad fly fishing, it was inconsiderate and ill-mannered. The self-centered pig does this for a good while as we’re tying our flies on, so me and my father give each other a look and walk back across the street, around the bridge and behind the cabin. We were upstream from the bridge a good fifty feet or so to start. I go upstream just a bit further to where a rabbit had swam past me on a previous day. The water was channeled between two sets of rocks and settled down afterward. I thought it’d be a good place to start, but I hadn’t caught anything in this area the entire week. We were upstream from the bridge and the big fish were usually right under it or downstream.

I cast my line out into the water and watch the fly drift lazily downstream. Nothing. I wait for a few moments, pull it back into the air, and cast again. Still nothing. I remembered the Pirates game was on, so I pull out my phone and turn that on. I keep the volume low, wanting the sounds of nature to rustle around me. The announcers were settling into their routine as I got into mine. I cast again. The fly hits the water and starts drifting along with the current. Then it disappears. There’s a sharp tug on the line. It’s a bite. Strong. Heavy. The fish is tugging away at the line, then swimming out as far as it can. I start fighting with it, pulling the rod back, reeling the line in and letting it go back out depending on how far the rod is bending. Meanwhile the Pirates score a run to tie the game. It couldn’t have been any more fun. I continue to grapple with the fish, slowly reeling it closer while dodging the branches overhead. The Pirates score another run as I pull out my net and catch the fish. It’s a big brown trout, sixteen inches and fat. My dad gets a photo of the fish in the net and then me holding it. Probably one of the largest fish I’ve caught.

After the photos were done and the fish was released, I walked a little bit back upstream to get to where I started at. I cast my line out again and move my phone around in my vest so I can hear the baseball game a little bit better. There’s a tug on the line. Another bite. I wasn’t even trying. It was nowhere near as big, but I have fun reeling it in anyway. Meanwhile the Pirates scored another run to take the lead. Two fish within minutes of each other and the Pirates playing good baseball. It was great. The day was already a success and I had only been on the water for a quarter-hour.

Those guys down by the bridge? Nothing but karma.



The Tipping Point

Letters of Note, one of my favorite blogs, has gone comment-free:

All complaints should be directed towards a section of society to whom the concept of even vaguely civil discussion means nothing. This collective waste of flesh, bone, and dangerously limited brain function have caused me to dread opening each and every “New Comment” notification I’ve received over the past twelve months or so, to the point where I now cannot continue justifying the moderation of these imbecilic, repugnant grunts when it takes up such an inordinate amount of my willpower and, more importantly, time. I’d rather spend my hours happily expanding the archives of Letters of Note than clean up after a keyboard-wielding gaggle of cowardly, dim-witted, knuckle-dragging reprobates who have nothing better to do than gleefully splash their fetid saliva all over my efforts and then roll around in the puddle until I’m able to press “Delete Comment.” I refuse to waste another minute.

I think sooner or later there’s going to be a tipping point on the comment system as a whole on the web. It won’t disappear from everywhere, but will be featured less and less from places that matter and care about their content. News sites and link farms that depend on revenue from clicks will be the last holdouts.

The Time of the Unexpected

The CBC puts out a great montage every season for the playoffs featuring great moments of the past and present.

Meanwhile NBC leads into a game with an hour of Babar.

Crashing Back To Reality

Pat Lackey over at Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke has summed up the recent Pirates downturn pretty well:

A few minutes later, I checked back and the Pirates were down 4-0. This is being a Pirate fan early in the season in a nutshell; they string you along just long enough to get your hopes up, and then let it all come crashing down.

I didn’t expect the 2:1 winning ratio to stick, but after the great start I certainly didn’t expect the Bucs to go 1 for 5 at home. I guess I should feel lucky that not only was I watching the Penguins last night, but the Extra Innings channels that took over Center Ice didn’t have the Pirates game on. (( I could have watched on MLB.tv / At Bat, but hockey takes priority, obviously.)) First game of the season I missed so far.

Opening Day

Opening Day is here, so this is the next step in my baseball experiment. My expectations are low, thanks to the preseason, and the slight blizzard blowing through Pittsburgh is setting the mood. It’s impossible to see ten feet out the window, and that’s how I feel looking ahead to the season. There’s no clear path to where everything is going to go. (( Aside from the massive Root Sports rebranding, but that’s another article altogether. )) But at least I’m giving it a shot.

162 games to go.

The Best Laid Plans

I was going to use today to write an article on why I love hockey, but then BC decided to choke and I resigned myself to a daiquiri induced coma as a means of denial. Whoops.

That's More Like It

So the new Captain America trailer is out. They’ve made vast improvements in how it’s edited and it now actually features the story, not just a bunch of special effects. And the difference is drastically clear in the sheer fact that whereas I was ambivalent towards the first trailer, the new one makes me actually want to see the movie. (( But not on opening night. I already made that mistake once (Spider-Man 3) and now it’s an honor reserved solely for Nolan-Directed films. ))