Archive for the Sports Category

Enefel

Posted in Culture, Expat life, Film & TV, Personal, Sports, Technology, USA on September 16, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Another September, another NFL season begins. The NFL is one of the very few indulgences that I miss dearly from living in the U.S. It was an important part of my weekend routine: wake up Sunday, make coffee, turn on the 10 am game, relax on the couch, let the caffeine kick in, do some chores around the house as the games continued, etc. Football means nothing to the vast majority of Koreans, who are primarily interested in baseball, with progressively receding (can I say that?) interests in soccer and basketball. When I first got here I couldn’t find it anywhere and lived through nfl.com highlights.

The next season, last year, I found one place playing games over the internet, but only live. 10 am Sunday Pacific time is 2 am Korea time. That doesn’t work. But when the playoffs rolled around, a brand new foreigner bar in Haeundae got the NFL Sunday Ticket thingy. They broadcast them on a delay, showing Saturday and Sunday games the following night. An ethical code was born: If you know, don’t tell. Simple as that. And it worked. Either everyone averted their eyes from internet news for the whole day, or no one spilled the beans. I saw five playoff games in a crowded bar and didn’t know the outcomes until I watched them unfold on the screen.

As an indication of how quickly things change here, there are now three bars (at least) showing not just playoffs, but regular season games, using the same model. There’s the original in Haeundae (Sunset Lounge) and two in Kyungdae (HQ and Evas, which both opened only a few months ago). All three bars have the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is far from perfect, but for the most part it works.

Eva’s is a great bar with the best pub food in the city, so I went there for the season opener on Friday night (what was in the States the Thursday night game). There was a good crowd and the Steelers won, so I was happy. Monday night I went back at around 7 for the Sunday games. I was the only one there that early, so I got to pick the game: Chicago at Green Bay. At first, it was just me and a bartender girl, who had no clue what was going on. I taught her the best I could in simple English words. Keep the other team out of your area, move into the other team’s area. OK, now that there’s a safety. The quarterback got tackled in his goal. That’s two points. There’s a field goal, that’s three points. See that quarterback for Chicago? He keeps throwing the ball to the other team. That’s bad. What’s second and seven mean? Um… OK, they have to make 10 yards (you know yards? like a meter.) in four plays. Then they get another four chances to make another 10 yards. Oh, OK. I don’t think she got it. But she seemed mildly entertained. Every time there was a close up of a player showboating after a big defensive play she’d laugh and say “So cute,” which, in itself, was cute.

Eventually, toward the end of the game, regulars started flowing into the bar. After Aaron Rogers threw that beautiful bomb to Donald Driver to win the game, we tried to launch another one. But the site stopped working. It refused to load another game. HQ and Sunset have apparently had the same problem. From what I hear demand is higher than bandwidth supply and it’s created a logjam. Making matters worse, nfl.com doesn’t have any support, so there’s no way to get answers or solutions.

Hopefully things will get worked out, they’ll clear the tubes, and we’ll be able to see all the games we want. It’s still not the same as waking up to morning football. But what I lack in that regard, I gain in the communal aspect of enjoying it at the neighborhood pub with a few friends and regulars.

Go Steelers.

Super Steelers

Posted in Film & TV, Music, Personal, Sports, Travel on February 2, 2009 by Elephant Talk

Last night we rocked Singapore. Actually, it was more like two dozen foreigners plus a handful of Singaporians, but we still rocked. There’s a bar along the riverfront called the Crazy Elephant that hosts an open mic on Mondays. So we played a late set, then drank a bunch of beer and got rowdy, then played another, sloppier set. We’re definitely rusty, but it was fun. We came back to the house, swam in the pool and made a shitload of noise until the cops came and shut us down. I finally stumbled off to bed around 2 in the morning.

I woke up to the horrific scream of an alarm clock I set for 6:45 am. Hangover be damned, I couldn’t miss the start of the Superbowl, not when it’s the Steelers playing. I had a throbbing headache but I was jazzed up for the game. Things looked good in the first half, capped off by that amazing interception by James Harrison. Holy shit what a play. That was unreal. The second half was painful, and when Fitzgerald scored that 64-yarder I started to remember my hangover again and felt like shit. But then that finish, jeezus… more than joy, that was a relief.

I predicted a 27-20 Steeler win. I wasn’t far off. The Cardinals came to play and showed a lot of heart, especially Warner. That was the best quarterbacking I’ve seen against the Steelers in a very long time. I was surprised by how the Cardinals shut down Willie Parker. But I was more surprised by how they failed to defend the short passes against Santonio Holmes. Their corners were playing too loose, and the Steelers must have run that same quick pass play to him three or four times.

Six Superbowl championships… I watched Bradshaw and Swann and Stallworth and Greene play. I barely remember those Superbowls… a few highlight flashes are still there. The best part was it meant time spent with dad. But this one feels really good. This group of players, this particular one, is special, like those 80s teams were special. The formula is the same as it was back then, because the team is a team. There’s not one player that stands out among the bunch. No Favre, no Romo, no T.O., no Ray Lewis… No stars, no posterboy, no one making news for the wrong reasons or making too much noise about himself. Just a team.

Bandwagonism

Posted in Sports on January 24, 2009 by Elephant Talk

It’s official, the Arizona Cardinals are the trendy pick to win the Superbowl. Apparently Larry Fitzgerald has achieved godlike status, the best since Jerry Rice, a guy who can win a game all by himself. Larry Fitzgerald Larry Fitzgerald Larry Fitzgerald. Good lord. Sure he’s talented, but he’s not the one who scares me. The guy who scares me is Steve Breaston. I predict this guy will significantly change the course of the game by returning a punt for a touchdown, catching another TD, and racking up close to a hundred yards.

Pittsburgh’s weak on special teams coverage. They’re also vulnerable against the deep ball. But I think Fitzgerald will get the bulk of Troy Polamalu’s attention and Warner will spot Breaston as his second option. This isn’t to say Fitzgerald won’t have a good game, but I think Breaston is the X-factor. The key is hitting Warner before he can make those throws. I think the Steelers will. On the other side of the ball, I’m expecting Willie Parker to have two touchdowns, 100+ yards, and an MVP trophy.

Lawyer ball

Posted in Film & TV, Sports on January 20, 2009 by Elephant Talk

So it’s Steelers vs Cardinals in the Superbowl. Weird.

I just finished watching the game, again delayed 18 hours and again among the other patiently, voluntarily ignorant at Sunset Lounge. Of course I’m thrilled the Steelers are in, and I think it’s gonna be a stellar game. And I think the Steelers will win.

But that game, I’m sorry, was not fun at all to watch. I don’t want to come off as a sore winner when I should be reveling in victory, but that game was a perfect example of what’s wrong with the NFL. When the refs get too involved, it takes all the joy out of the sport. To my eyes the first half, and really most of the entire game, was a total Steelers domination. The Ravens could barely move the ball. The Steelers were moving the ball. And yet it was close because the only times the Ravens scored were when the refs gave them the opportunity. Their first touchdown came right after a really bad pass interference call. Their second touchdown came right after a proper pass interference call. But regardless if they were good or bad calls, the point is that the calls were not reflective of the way the opposing forces — the Steeler D, the Ravens O — were actually functioning on the field.

I know, I know, it’s lame and pointless to point out bad officiating. It’s not that I’m complaining about bad calls. I’m complaining about how badly the game suffers when the officials interject themselves into the storyline. I’ve never seen a game have its life sucked out of it so badly by having yet another head poking out of a striped jersey standing in front of the camera. Frankly, after seeing them so much in the first quarter, I just got bored. It wasn’t just me. The people in the bar stopped paying attention, they were talking about other things, people were slumping in their chairs. There was no life. A friend of mine said something that summed it all up: “This isn’t football, it’s lawyer-ball.” Even with the Ravens moving in the fourth quarter, down by two points… at that point no one cared anymore.

And then came Troy Polamalu’s interception. That was the game’s big moment. Someone made a big play. All heads turned to the screen. There were no flags getting in the way of the game, the refs had nothing to do with it. The bar came to life.

This isn’t the kind of post I should be posting when I should be celebrating a great victory. But this game wasn’t like the Chargers game. That game was fun, even when Pittsburgh was down 7-0. This game wasn’t fun. It was merely a process of surviving.

Stillers

Posted in Expat life, Film & TV, Personal, Sports on January 13, 2009 by Elephant Talk

I wasn’t too far off on my playoff predictions. I got six right, two wrong, and three of my four picks are in the championship round. The biggest shocker to me was that freakshow of a game between Carolina and Arizona. That was my one rock-solid pick. Going into that weekend, it was my sure thing of all the games. I figured two stellar runningbacks against a porous run defense was a no-brainer. That’s the way the playoffs work. Nope. Bizarre.

Last night, I watched the Sunday games on an 18-hour delay. Here in Korea, the early game begins at 3 am. There’s a bar in Busan called Sunset Lounge that has the NFL game pass, so they showed both games starting Monday at 8 pm. I spent the whole day away from the internet and I told friends and family not to say anything. The only fissure all day came from my friend Brian, a die-hard Ravens fan and a vampire (coincidence?) who goes to sleep when the sun rises. He sent me two text messages: “And the winner is…” at about 1 pm, and “Is it over yet?” at about 10 pm. After the second one I turned off my phone.

The mantra at the bar was “If you know, don’t say.” Everyone was a little nervous that someone was going to spill the beans about the outcome. But no one did for either game. Only one guy knew and he left the Steeler game at halftime.

What a game that was. I wasn’t too nervous about the first Charger touchdown. But it did get me thinking about how Tom Brady killed the Steelers in the playoffs a few years back. I’ve said this before, but the way to beat the Steelers is to forget about running the ball: just throw deep. That third quarter was nuts. I don’t think I’ve seen offensive domination like that by the Steelers ever.

Next week will be carnage. The line play will be personal and brutal on both sides. I’m still picking Pittsburgh of course, because I think they’re in better physical and mental shape. But it’s anybody’s game. The line, ridiculously, is Pittsburgh by six. That’s nuts. I put it at straight-up even odds. If the Ravens win, it will be close. But if the Steelers win it has as good a chance ending 9-7 as it does ending 42-3. The Chargers pass rush is nothing like the Ravens, so if things go badly its because Ben is brought to the grass six or seven times. What I want to see is a ton of Willie Parker, over and over and over and over again. I want to see him dig out three yards, then two, then one, then seven, then three. That’s what I want to see.

The Eagles-Cardinals game… Does anyone care outside of Arizona and Eastern Pennsylvania? I’m picking Philadelphia. Two reasons: I still think that Cardinal run defense is vulnerable. I figure Westbrook will finish with 150 all-purpose yards, maybe even more. On defense, I think the Eagles secondary will confuse the passing game and Warner will throw at least two picks. And overall, I just feel like the Eagles are a grittier team. So there you have it Pennsylvania — your own Superbowl.

I have to finish with a direct quote from my dad in an email I just read: “Arizona, playing in the NFC title game???  In Arizona???  In the middle of January???  What is up with that?  NFL championships are supposed to be decided up North, in the snow and ice and cold.  Not in some far-off, short-sleeve, overheated desert environment.”

Amen.

NFL playoff predictions

Posted in Film & TV, Sports, USA on December 29, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Playoff predictions are meaningless. But they’re fun. There’s no research behind this, just gut feelings. You may, however, consider them as unquestionable as the passage of time.

AFC Wildcard
Indianapolis at San Diego: Indianapolis wins 35-24
Baltimore at Miami: Baltimore wins 30-13

AFC Divisionals
Baltimore at Tennessee: Baltimore wins 20-12
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh wins 33-20

AFC Championship
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh wins 9-7

NFC Wildcard
Atlanta at Arizona: Arizona wins 27-24
Philadelphia at Minnesota: Philadelphia wins 40-14

NFC Divisionals
Arizona at Carolina: Carolina wins 38-27
Philadelphia at New York: Philadelphia wins 23-20

NFC Championship
Philadelphia at Carolina: Carolina wins 35-16

Superbowl
Pittsburgh defeats Carolina 30-21

Things new and old

Posted in Expat life, Korea, Music, Personal, Sports, Travel, USA on December 10, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I come back from three weeks of inactivity and WordPress has redesigned everything. Again. WordPress loves to redesign things. It’s kind of that Apple way — try to make things increasingly cute so that your experience clicking and typing is that much more… cute. New cuteness means things never grow old and you’ll never get bored.

It’s December, the holiday season, the reflective time of the year. When you’re away from your home country, it’s also the sad time of the year. Everything solid is distant, and by that I mean people. It’s also the season of endings. I’ve come to hate endings here because there are so many of them and in such variety. This is why I love Spring that much more — new things are born.

I’m considering my winter travel plans. Plan A involves a flight to visit a friend in Singapore. I’d follow that up with a train trip into Malaysia and Thailand. Maybe peak with a trip to Ankor Wat before heading back down the Malay peninsula. Plan B is a short trip to Shanghai with a friend from the states. I’d like to do both, but I’m not sure how I’d swing it. I’ll have to decide quickly though. China requires a visa.

Yesterday my German friend asked me: Now that I’ve lived away from America for a while, what do I find “cheesy” in my home culture. I couldn’t find anything to fit “cheesy.” In America, culture needs time to age before it becomes cheese. Nothing is cheesy in current America. All the cheese exists in the previous decade. In the naughts, the 90s are cheesy. In the 90s, all the cheese lived and died in the 80s and 70s. I have no idea what the cheese of 2008 is. But I do find something garrish about American culture since I’ve been here — advertising. In Korea, ads are funny and bizarre, so I enjoy them. The problem with American advertising that I hear now is that it sounds incredibly desperate. This might have something to do with the economic situation and business climate. It might also have something to do with my lack of experience with it over the past two years. I am sensitive to mediatized English persuasion.

For example, I like to listen to internet radio. I’m a football fanatic, so I listen to ESPN. The ratio of ads to content on that show must be 50:50. I cannot stand it. Mike Golic’s embarrasing whine about “maaaan sweat” and that dorky hipster song about a free credit report hurts my brain. I have to turn it off. This feeling of desperation is most evident in ESPN’s in-content sales pitches and their horrific new thing: They’ve started playing bad pop songs — really, really bad pop songs. This is so out of sorts to me. The sales pitch is sad: “And now, here’s a great new song from the great new piece of shit called The James Blunt Ripoff Gang.” ESPN is owned by Disney, which owns, oh about 60 or 70 radio stations and a few record labels. Conincidence? I think not.

Thank goodness for Radio Paradise, Soma FM, and NPR — my personal holy trinity of quality radio. And yes, I do occasionally give them my money.