Friday, June 30, 2006

Cold Comfort for Dirk - Return of dür Hasselhoffmeister

I noticed today that Google's finally made it simple to post Google Videos into blogs. So here's my first Google Video post - in honor of Dirk Nowitzki & his valiant NBA Finals effort and Germany's big match tomorrow against Argentina in the World Cup. The Germans do love their Hasselhoff. Can you blame 'em?

Here's Google's official description of this zaniness:

Well That's right, it's Hofficial... your favourite cult icon wants to take you home! The one and only David Hasselhoff of "Bay Watch" and "Night Rider" fame returns with a cover of the
1975 classic 'Jump In My Car' and its a doozy. Recorded in Sydney last year with the legendary Harry Vanda (AC/DC, The Angels), the Ted Mulry Gang tune has been re-vamped with full Hoff gusto and this music video promises to rock the socks off all his Hofficial fans. Watch it, enjoy it, share it on Google Video, courtesy of Sony BMG Australia.
Here's Google's official description of this zaniness:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

They aren't the Budweiser Frogs - Brad & Hall sell Bud to the Brits

Yes - I know - more World Cup coverage - those of you reading this who have not been consumed with Soccer Fever will be disappointed by me again. Yes - another soccer post. So sue me. It beats more coverage of the NBA draft & pre-training camp coverage of the NFL. There'll be plenty of time for boredom once the camp coverage begins. That's when the real dog days of summer begin.

And you soccer purists will note that I'm not really blogging about the games so much as the coverage - well, true enough. I did get to enjoy the first halves of the Brazil/Ghana & Spain/France games. The play was superb. Sorry Spain & Spanish friends - I guess Spanish Coach Aragones' Thierry Henry slurs caught up with him. Has Hooliganism moved to España? France & Brazil are still powering up - believe it or not. Upcoming matches should top those games though- tomorrow - Argentina versus the 2006 hosts - Germany. That one will surely be a doozy.

Can Argentina beat the hosts at home on European soil? Can Brazil do the same to France? They'll be looking to get revenge on France for 1998. As soon as the U.S. was ousted, my favor fell to the Socceroos of Australia. Now I'll root on the South Americans. The Argentines need this win more than Germany.

The NY Times' World Cup blog has been a treat to read. Turns out they're following the coverage here stateside more than the soccer too. Yesterday they posted a great link to the British Budweiser series of ads starring the hapless American soccer broadcasting team of Brad & Hal. You can enjoy them at the British Budweiser site or enjoy them here at Pablo's Point courtesy of YouTube:

Do they really drink Budweiser in Great Britain?

Great article in the New Yorker about the 1966 World Cup hosted and won by the English in England. (E-mail me if you can't get the link).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Linux, Soccer - the Metric System?

Ghana gana a EEUU

Well - so much for the U.S.A. in this 2006 World Cup. We had some exciting moments - in particular in the Italy match. There is lots of discussion about firing Coach Bruce Arena. There's complaints about the referee's calls. (Mark Cuban might take some solace in knowing he's not the only one complaining!)

But today's all about the Black Stars from Ghana - in their very first World Cup appearance. This win means so much more to them as players, their country & Africa - as the sole remaining African team than it does to disappoint us. And they played beautifully throughout the group round. Congratulations, Ghana. Well done and good luck against Brazil.

There's really no alternative as a U.S. Soccer fan - might as well be philosophical about our early exit. It was a great feat to make it to the World Cup to begin with. We tied a European perennial contender on European soil. And we finally scored a goal on our own today. And it was an MLS star who did it - Clint Dempsey. It's not all bad news.

Linux & Ubuntu

I'm posting this entry on my old computer. It's 6 years old - ancient in computer-years. I've installed Ubuntu LInux on it - a distribution of Linux that's based on Debian - which was concocted by an American - Ian Murdock - back in 1993 - but has been worked on collaboratively ever since with help from programmers all over the world. Ubuntu was begun as an effort to make an Open Source desktop OS available that's relatively simple to install & use for non-techies around the world. And it was started by a very successful South African businessman by the name of Mark Shuttleworth. "Ubuntu" is the South African philosophy of humanity to others.

I mention all of this techie stuff because I draw certain very loose connections between the popularity of Soccer as a sport here stateside with Open Source Software. (Humor me, here, patient readers.) Folks here have tasted the greatness of the sport through our national team's qualifying matches, the 1994 World Cup, the MLS, & the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals. In a country where football, baseball, basketball, even golf & hockey are so dominant - it's a real accomplishment to get a small percentage of interested spectators. And what that percentage represents is a very vocal & passionate group of outsiders who are thirsty for soccer - its uninterrupted play, agility, athleticism. As fans, they are the types that make up the feverish ranks of Sam's Army, & locally, the Inferno.

I see the same kind of enthusiasm from users of Open Source software. They're interested in something besides the dominant operating systems. They first tasted Open Source goodness within their commercial OS desktops with the Firefox browser. And this is where I started. Having used Firefox in place of Internet Explorer since 2002, I became very interested in trying out Linux. It was the first time I saw how advantageous not having the limits of proprietary software was to being stuck with the same ole, same ole.

Joga Companion

Along came Ubuntu in 2004 & my old Sony VAIO PC (from 2000) was so sluggish running Windows XP that - not having anything to lose - I installed Ubuntu Linux over Windows on it. It has been challenging but fun - much like following soccer in the World Cup. The passionate fans of both Linux & Soccer are a big part of why I have enthusiasm for both groups of outsiders.

South Africa 2010

The next World Cup happens to take place in South Africa - the land of Ubuntu, the Truth & Reconciliation Committee, Endless Summer surf adventures & Nelson Mandela. This will be the first time a World Cup has been held anywhere on the continent of Africa - a milestone without parallel. (I give FIFA credit for awarding it to South Africa. The Olympics have some catching up to do!)
I'm hoping WAY ahead of schedule that our U.S. squad qualifies for this 2010 World Cup. I think it'll take the continued success of Major League Soccer & its expansion into Canada & the inclusion of Mexican League teams, Youth Soccer, Americans playing in Europe, and who knows what else - Freddy Adu will be of drinking age!

I've never followed the different international soccer leagues - Spain's Primera Division, the Bundesliga, Serie A Italia, the English Premiership. But it would be nice to, at the very least, follow our American players playing abroad. Who knows - maybe the MLS could start a European team like Chivas Mexico did with the MLS. And I know the Redbulls will be trying to pull another NY Cosmos in the coming seasons.

My pal Chris has fallen head over heels with Arsenal & following the English League. He loves how teams must fight to stay in their division season-to-season. That makes every game count. It's a real embrace of free market values in Europe that perhaps MLB & the NFL could learn from - a funny lesson to learn from Europeans admittedly.

I'm also hoping that Ubuntu or some other Open Source platform finds great popularity among desktops here stateside & throughout the world. No - not quite ready to embrace the Metric System - but I'll put it up for consideration.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So long Golf, Hello Again Rabbit

VW lovers everywhere are jubilating or cringing - depending on their preference...but the stateside VW compact car will no longer be called the Golf. It is being rechristened the Rabbit.

I never did understand the Golf name for this Volkswagen car - were it an automobile made for the game of golf, then it would be a gas-guzzling Cadillac-style cruiser with plenty of room for a set of clubs in the trunk. Say what you will - but at least a rabbit more closely resembles this car. It's not furry and can't hop - but it's got 4 wheels - similar to the 4 legs that our bunny friends have - and it's small. Welcome back to the VW Rabbit, I say. We barely noticed you absent - but we're glad to have you back.

My pal B-Bry will have to hold on to his Golf - he surely will appreciate its uniqueness now.

Soccer Simpsons' Style

Confession: 4 years ago pledged to go to Germany

Confession: 4 years ago after the U.S. beat México in the Korea/Japan World Cup 2002, a few of us pledged to travel in 4 years' time to Germany for 1-2 weeks of World Cup 2006 games, fun & travel. "Oh the beer, pretzels & schnitzel we'll consume!"

We didn't follow through on our pledge. Point of fact, none of us have dared speak of it since. I guess 4 years ago, getting up in the middle of the night - or staying up until the middle of the night to watch a game felt enough like being in college again to think that in 4 years' time we wouldn't be so busy with work & family that we couldn't get away with such a plan. Hah!

I'm content to watch the so far fantastic tournament reveal itself to us through TV, radio & internet. That's plenty good enough and I don't have to worry about accomodations in Leipzig or filling prescriptions or too much luggage. But it's disappointing having to watch games at 8AM while getting ready for work - work that I know my European counterparts are probably on vacation from - or at the very least they get to watch the games at night their time.

And no one has yet to get together to watch any of the games yet either - that might help me get in the spirit of things. But it helps to read these terrific Dispatches from the World Cup on These posts really transport you.

(Congratulations to for their 10 year anniversary!)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Coffee left in the cup!

Do you ever have those forgetful kinds of Monday mornings? I'm referring to those moments when you're sitting at your computer and you're trying to remember what the task at hand is. Then you look over at your coffee cup and realize that there's still some coffee left! YES! It's scary just how slippery the mind's gears get over a weekend. This morning I was so pleasantly surprised that I still had 1/4 cup left of coffee to drink. Weird.

I'm posting as I watch Switzerland beat Togo (1-0 at the 70').

I'm surprised that the ABC/ESPN commentators for the World Cup don't mention what MLS teams the U.S. stars play for more often. Given the lag that soccer here stateside will experience after the World Cup, you'd think they'd be doing everything they could to spur more interest in seeing these players at your local soccer stadium.

Major League Soccer renamed the NY/NJ MetroStars the NY Red Bulls. Did anyone notice this? I see also that August 12th that Giants Stadium will be hosting F.C. Barcelona & Brazil's star Ronaldinho. Nifty. We need to get these kinds of friendlies more often in Frisco.

USA/Italy on Saturday was a blast to watch. It's really fun to think of Europe's soccer powers being taken completely by surprise by our USA squad. From the U.S. players' perspectives it must be akin to being pirates. Even though we only got a tie out of it, it felt triumphant. Bongiorno, Italia. Did anyone else think of the movie "Breaking Away" while watching this? You know, when the Bloomington, Indiana townie is obsessed with Italian cycling? And when he finally gets to ride with them they ruin his image of them?

(I see that Owen Wilson does a nice little homage to "Breaking Away" in the trailer to his new movie "You, Me & Dupree". Nifty.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Recap This Week en el Mundo Deportivo

Rather than recap every great moment in sports this week, I want to focus more on how we're following the action in 2006 - that is, the technical advances and changes in media coverage.

Following the 2006 World Cup in Germany

Korea/Japan was a booger to follow - you had to get up at 3AM to watch matches live. It was exciting at the moment but you would really feel it about 12 hours later at work trying to stay awake. But you could watch the games in their entirety - really get into the flow of things. This time around, the time change has been a bit more "Breakfast At Wimbledon". The live broadcasts of each game here in Dallas have been at 8AM, 11AM & 2PM. You find yourself at work wondering about the game & its progress. So you keep up with it online or sneak out to the pub for lunch.

Technical Advances

Online I've been using a combination of things - Yahoo!'s Official FIFA World Cup page with video highlights, Google's Joga Bonito Companion for Firefox, & FootieFox. Here is when I would urge you - if you are still using Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari browser, to switch to Mozilla Firefox. The Joga Bonito Companion add-on to Firefox gives you game updates right in the browser as you work. The companion lets you know when an infraction occurs (Yellow card to Ballack! 49') or when someone scores. (It's 1/2 time now for Mexico/Angola 0-0). After a game, you can mosey on over to Yahoo!'s World Cup page & watch video highlights of all the important moments in the games with quick-loading Macromedia Flash video.

I managed to convince the office to have a TV rolled in to the common area to catch the Univision broadcasts "for the students' enjoyment". But it's torture having to keep up appearances while in the other room there's a whole world of soccer excitement going on. (I might even prefer getting up at 3AM in the morning to knowing there's a great game going on during work hours.)

Back home, Satellite TV & the DVR have really helped me follow more closely the tournament. Univision, Telefutura, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN-U aka"the Ocho" (Does ANYONE get this channel?) all show the games, interviews & highlight shows.
World Cup Live -, Eric Wynalda & Julie Foudy are semi-pro commentators doing their best to cover the game with a SportsCenter sensibility. Ideally we would have a combination of the fun that is the Spanish broadcast & the analysis that ESPN offers.

My brother Larry mentioned to me that he'd been listening to the World Cup matches on XM. I had no idea that XM was going to be broadcasting the games! XM channels 147 & 148 American Soccer Radio Call-In, Andres Cantor (Can someone tell me WHY this guy's not on the network broadcasts?!!) on the Spanish play-by-play and it's all offered 24-7. I can't recall this kind of coverage for ANY sport event - not to mention soccer. So these are good times.

I've had the XM World Cup coverage on all week in the car. It has really been terrific to hear America calling in to talk soccer with the announcers. If there's a burgeoning sport sub-culture, it's soccer. But as one of the callers said, the World Cup is a special event - and the rest of soccer pales in comparison really. So - there's always a bit of a let-down after the month-long international soccer extravaganza that is World Cup Soccer.

Univision & ESPN - The Joy of the Festival & The Sober Analysis

Spanish-language television vs. ABC/ESPN English-language coverage is not a fair comparison. We simply don't have the same caliber announcing as Spanish-language television does - and that's merely a function of the regular practice that Spanish-language announcers have. But even with practice, I wonder if ESPN/ABC could match the enthusiasm that the Argentines & Mexicans bring to the games? We get bogged down in the stats & analysis and are afraid to dance.
Nice to see that Major League Soccer is now covering World Cup too. Before they almost seemed to completely ignore it.
Kicks - Steve Davis' World Cup Blog is the Dallas Morning News' attempt to cover the travel expense for their Germany correspondents. Belo Gang - buy a vowel & put an RSS feed on the blog for cryin' out loud. How can we be expected to follow it otherwise?

Online newspapers (like the Star-Telegram & the Dallas Morning News) have a really difficult time putting together successful blogs. It's understandable that reporters with looming deadlines would be less than enthusiastic about the blogging medium and yet another writing assignment. Frontburner is a successful blog in comparison because it's maintained by writers and guest contributors that work for a MONTHLY publication - they don't have the pressure of the daily deadline. Frontburner is also refreshingly irreverent in a way that the regional newspaper of consequence can't afford to be.

The end of the 2006 World Cup won't spell the end of soccer this summer for us here stateside either. There's Major League Soccer, yes. But also coming out July 14th is the documentary on the New York Cosmos, "Once in a Lifetime". This was directed by the same guy who did the neat production work on "Dogtown & Z-Boys" and it looks like it's going to capture the same 1970's magic-in-a-bottle that Dogtown did. (Not to mention the killer soundtrack to expect from them!)

NASL, the NY Cosmos, Kenny Cooper, Kyle Rote, Jr. & The Dallas Tornado - all of this brings back really good memories of soccer spectating in the seventies/early eighties. As we were learning the Metric System AND the English System, we were also following American Football, Baseball, Soccer, Tennis - maybe it was all too much. Anyone out there remember the Metric system?

I'm not forgetting the Mavs Heat finals. It's an honor for Dallas to finally be in the NBA Finals. But the timing is difficult. I can only imagine what Dirk's going through trying to focus on the next game & knowing that his countrymen are completely rapt with the soccer right now.