Sunday, June 17, 2007

Heartbreak in Barcelona

Football, as the rest of the world calls it, or soccer as the game is known here in the States, is to my mind the most dramatic of the major sports. Every game repeatedly carries fans' emotions up and down, mixing nervous excitement with despair, disbelief with joy.

Today, the Spanish league closed with a finale befitting of Shakespeare. For those that aren't familiar with the history of Spain, during their bitter civil war in the 1930s, Madrid served as the epicenter for Franco and his Nationalists, while Barcelona was a major center for the Republicans. The Nationalists won and Franco and his regime punished the people of Barcelona, Catalonia and other parts of Northern Spain pretty brutally up 'til his death in 1975 and the resumption of democracy in 1978. So, it's not too surprising that one of the fiercest rivalries in all sport is that between Barca, as the more popular of the two teams in Barcelona is known, and Real Madrid. They are also two of the wealthiest teams in football, regularly outdoing all others to sign up the hottest stars.

Speaking of stars, Barca's Ronaldinho has been voted the best player in all football and has led Barca to 3 consecutive Spanish league titles, in '03-04, '04-05 and last year. And Barca led much of this season, too, and looked to be in form to clinch their fourth consecutive title. And despite helping Barca put 5 goals on the board in their last game against Gimnastic, it wasn't enough to give his team the crown. Instead the honor went to Real Madrid with their victory over Mallorca in Madrid.

Mallorca scored first and held the 0-1 lead through the first half in the face of intense pressure from the likes of Beckham, Raul, Robinho, and Sergio Ramos who, parenthetically, looks more like Keanu Reeves than Keanu Reeves. But in the second half, the dam burst as Mallorca's defense cracked. Madrid put 3 goals on the board in relatively quick succession. Their victory meant they captured the league title. My buddy Jordi was in all likelihood at the Barca game, which was played at the same time as the Madrid game. He must have been on an emotional roller coaster as Barca took a commanding lead over their opponent while Mallorca (a fellow Catalan-speaking area of Spain) took and held on to a narrow lead over Madrid. Had Mallroca maintained their 0-1 lead, the title would have been Barca's. But with each Madrid goal, Barca's fourth consecutive title disappeared out of sight.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Parents acting ugly

My 5 yr old daughter is on our neighborhood swim team this year. They had their first meet last week, and I had the distinct pleasure of being an official timer. It was great fun. The team has 5 age groups - 6 and under, 7-10, 11-12, 13-14 and 15-18. These kids are awesome - they screamed their lungs out for their teammates and were always encouraging their pals on the blocks.

It's a shame that some parents' over competitiveness had to pollute the atmosphere.

As the timer of lane 3, our 12-13 yr old girls won the freestyle relay by a good half an arm. But because our team was coming back from a deficit, the other team's place judge contested it, even though every one else, including some of the other team's officials, said we won. Finally, our judges caved (rose above, depending on your perspective) and we split that race's points with the other team. Consequently, instead of the meet ending in a tie, we lost by 5 points.

That judge from the other team knew we had won, he just wanted the points - more specifically, he didn't want us to get all 5 points. To put it bluntly, he cheated. And the unfortunate lesson for the kids is this: you cheat, you win. It's sickening.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quote of the Day 6/14/07

"Beta" is in the eye of the beholder
David Berlind
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