.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} <$BlogRSDURL$>

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sometime just ahead of the 80th minute, a rumor quickly began to swirl around Felix on West Broadway and Grand St. in New York's Soho district. The urban legend that spread had it that during the 1990 World Cup, a near riot had started on this very corner as fans of Mexico and Argentina gathered en masse to cheer on their respective squads. Normally the thought of rioting soccer hooligans in trendy Soho would be laughed off as absurd, but as the tension of the current match, knotted at 1-1, grew thick and the crowds at competing bars across the streets swelled into the street, the idea suddenly seemed completely rational. In fact, a repeat of such shenanigans, a soccer riot in Soho, seemed highly probable.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Weekend #3 of my Cup Crawl through the five boroughs was a limited one, only one match on tap for me, but it was no less crazy than the previous weekends. The Knockout Phase of the tournament started this past weekend, meaning math would no longer a requirement for watching this damn sport. The formula now is simple: Win or Go Home. And so it was as we approached that Soho corner on Saturday, Germany already prevailing over the Swedes that morning and awaiting the winner of this contest. The Argentines had set up at one of their well-known haunts, Novecento, bursting out the door and onto the sidewalk. In response, the Mexican fans had decided to take over Felix, a French bistro, on the other side of West Broadway. Their collective cheers and chants could be heard for at least two blocks in every direction.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting In Germany. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting In Soho.

Of course, we arrived far too late to secure a seat inside at either of these establishments. One couple said they'd been there since 1 pm for the 3 o'clock kickoff and we're still relegated to watching from the sidewalk. No worries, we were still able to squeeze into the throng to get a good view of the massive screen inside Felix, which we chose because the crowd seemed more lively. So, we had carved out a nice spot to watch the match but our throats, sadly, were very dry, parched even, and they just weren't offering sidewalk service. So we did what we could only be expected to do, one of us bolted for the nearest bodega and picked up a couple of sixers. Improvisation is the spice of life, and the lifeblood of Cup Crawlin' through New York.

As the minutes ticked down, the aforementioned tension hung thick in the air. The crowds on the sidewalks finally turned there attention away from one another and became fixated on the screens. The action on the pitch was fantastic, with Mexico seemingly out-hustling Argentina most of the way. That hustle however proved to be the downfall for Mexico when the match went into overtime -- their legs finally gave out about eight minutes into the extra period when Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez dropped the deciding goal into the net...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Winner!

... which resulted in this wild scene outside Novecento. Argentina had won, 2-1.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Pampas party in Soho.

The crowd at Felix slumped, watching in disbelief as the Argentines danced in the streets. But there was no rioting. And as palpable as the depression was there on that Soho corner, it was probably nothing compared to how Mexico City felt at that moment.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey, oy vey...

And so, another Cup Crawlin' weekend in New York is in the books. The next day, I took it easy and watched England and Portugal advance from the confines of a quiet cottage in Connecticut -- my mind, and my gut, needed the break. Portugal survived a card-marred match with the Dutch, while England won ugly again, this time over Ecuador, with a bender from Beckham. The two squads meet Saturday. Speaking of ugly, the English hooligans have finally made their presence felt in Germany, brawling with the locals and lobbing bottles from the balconies.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Is there any beer left?

Lovely, but it just wouldn't be a World Cup without them, would it?

Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention the disappointment felt last week when the US team completely tanked against Ghana. A friend of mine really sums it up best in his Open Letter to US Manager Bruce Arena. Seriously, disgraceful.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Dammit.

That said, I can't think of a better team to lose to than Ghana. First ever Cup, smallest entrant in the field, and native country to the table-dancing guy from last weekend. You can't beat that. Speaking of, the Ghana Guy wrote me last week to say thanks for including him in my blog, and then I found a photo of him here:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Go Ghana Guy Go!

So consider me firmly affixed aboard the Ghana bandwagon. Oh, and Brazil? You're next you overrated collection of show-offs. Ghana gonna get ya!

Wojo: Best and Worst of WC'06 (so far)
FOX: World Cup Gets Global Audience in
FOX: Babes of the World Cup (leave it to the 'conservative' network)
What's your Brazilian futbol name? (aren't they all Ronaldo??)

* Soho pics courtesy bertabetti on flickr

Monday, June 19, 2006

World Cup weekend #2 produced a little something for everyone, a veritable feast for the eyes, the ears and what I'm feeling most today, the belly. It was a blazing hot weekend here in Gotham, with temperatures soaring into the 90s. Thankfully, Saturday's action began in a Bohemian Garden, a perfect setting for sun-soaked beer and brat consumption. You know this guy was into it...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Czech yo-self before you wreck yo-self.

... and so were we. Let's go.

Going Ga-Ga for Ghana
As I rode the train out towards Queens, I noticed the man in the Ghana jersey. It wasn't difficult to see him there, wedged in between the throng of burly, ruddy-faced Czechs, sporting his brightly-colored shirt and a nervous but confident grin. The Czechs payed him no mind. Coming off a 3-0 drubbing of the Americans last Monday, they we're anticipating another easy match on this Saturday afternoon. But a little over two hours later, it was the man in the Ghana jersey who was joyfully dancing on top of the picnic tables at the Czech Beer Garden in Astoria. Ghana had just pulled off the shocker of the Cup so far, slapping the Czechs 2-0, and this man was the Queens extension of the celebratory eruption that had just been ignited in his home country.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Seeing how the man in the jersey was the only bonafied Ghana supporter in the massive Garden packed full of Czechs, every single one of them fueled by a morning full of Pilsner, it was a brave move to get up on the tables. Throughout the match, the Czechs stomped their feet, pounded their steins and chanted full throat for their boys in red; I even think I heard them chanting 'whoop there it is!' at one point, but maybe not. They were an excited lot right up until the very end of the match, but even in defeat they didn't seem too bothered. I think they were just happy to see someone, anyone, dancing on the tables, so they cheered the Ghanian man on heartily and raised their pitchers to his country's triumph. And, thanks to that wacky World Cup math, the Czechs also became instant boosters of the American side in the next match, US vs. Italy.

Now That's More Like It
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
By 3 pm the gates to the Garden had been locked. The line outside reached to the N train, but the place swelled to capacity. The earlier result had upped the stakes of the US/Italy match. Suddenly, the Americans weren't so dead anymore, but they still had to play the match. For this one, I got right down in front of the biggest of the big screens, squeezing in front of the 1,000 or so bodies that had assembled there. As the match kicked off, the biggest fear of giving up a quick goal dissipated, the US side seemed to be playing with fire, with life, with energy. We were into it, cheering, gasping and groaning with every movement. Halfway through the 1st half, Italy scored. There was a sudden deflation, but that didn't last long. The US was on the board mere minutes later, thanks to an own goal from an Italian defender. Who cares, a goal is a goal, and we were all tied up. Then we started seeing red. Cards that is.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting World Cup XL

A few months ago in this space, I agonized over my Seahawks getting completely jobbed in Super Bowl XL. As I watched this match on Saturday, my gut became similarly twisted. The goddam Uruguayian ref was looking to screw America, issuing an unprecedented 3 red cards, two to the US. But the thing about being America is, you just kind of have to take it. I mean, really, who's going to sympathize with us? The soccer pitch is the great equalizer in the minds of many who hate America, that's where they can get their digs in. And so, despite the odds stacked against them, despite being down a man for most of the second half, despite bloodied faces and elbow-throwing Italians, Team USA fought through to gain a point and live to see another day. There was joy inside the Garden, but mostly just a giant sigh of relief.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Oh, and mark this down, because you will probably never see me get all jingoistic and flag-waving on this blog again. Hell, I even did the U-S-A chant a little on Saturday. Yeesh, this World Cup shit is dangerous.

Little O'Brazilihy
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Ok, so on W. 46th in midtown Manhattan there's a place known as Little Brazil street. For Sunday's noon match, Australia vs. Brazil, I figured this was as good a place as any in New York to samba my way into the culture a bit. What I never realized, but found out on Sunday, is that there are apparently a lot of Irish pubs in Brazil. Funny that. Seriously, not one Brazilian place on the whole block. It figures, even without a qualifying team, the Irish manage to work there way into this Cup. Despite the misleading moniker, Brazilian fans still came pouring out of every pub, including O'Brien's where we settled in to watch this one. Part of me was pulling for the Soccerroos from Australia, mostly because I think it's hilarious that they call themselves the Roos, but the dominant throng of Brazilian boosters around me dictated otherwise. And when the four-year-old kid in front me was hoisted to the bar by his father to blow on a giant yellow and green horn, I knew the Aussies were done for.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

One other bit of incongruity: Brazil's clinching goal? Scored by a guy named Fred. Seriously, Fred? His last name was probably Fitzpatrick for cripes sake. Oh, and Brazil, I don't care if you keep playing sluggishly, just keep your fans coming to the games, ok?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Good god, that's just not fair. Ok Brazil, we get it, your women are really hot.

Won't You Take Me To Koreatown
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Fourteen blocks south of Little Brazil is a place called Koreatown. Unlike Little Brazil however, this part of the city actually has Korean restaurants, and Korean stores, and *gasp!*, Koreans. And oh were they ever out, en masse. In fact, the city decided to close the block down entirely, allowing a Korean throng to camp out in the middle of the street to watch the France v. Korea game on a giant screen plastered to the side of a building. This scenario was fantastic save for one thing: No one was serving beer out here. My friend and I had to find liquid salvation elsewhere.

After poking into several places, we finally found the right stairwell to climb, a dark, unassuming ascent into the darkness of Won Jo, a 24-hour Korean BBQ and karaoke joint. Once we reached the top, we were greeted by the anxious faces of what seemed like a million Koreans. The place was packed. It didn't matter, we were determined. We managed to find a spot to stand, we managed to find ourselves a beer, and we quickly became the favorite token white guys in the entire place. When we arrived, the Koreans were down a goal and time was running short. The crowd was nervous but still electric. We chanted along with them, having no idea what we were saying. And then, in the 81st minute, anxiety turned to elation as Park Ji-Sung managed to poke a goal in and even things up. The place went absolutely bonkers. It literally bounced. I was scared for a minute, but instead of crashing through the floor and becoming part of a tragic NY Post headline (Bulgogi Tragedy in Koreatown), we spilled out onto 32nd Street with the rest of them and screamed our stupid, non-Korean heads off. Be the Reds!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And to think, we had thought it would be more fun to watch this match at a French restaurant. Non!

This coming week, I'll be sneaking out to catch the US vs. Ghana and Italy vs. the Czech matches. If the US and Italy both manage to win, it's on to the Round of 16 for the Americans. And on Saturday next week, I'll be immersing myself once again in the cultural bounty that is New York City during the World Cup (i.e. drinking beer with foreigners).

Until then, keep dancing like a Ghanians everyone.

NYT: Blogging the Cup
Deadspin: Live from Kaiserslautern
Simpsons: Mexico vs. Portugal (via DS)
NYT: The Paradigm Has Shifted (oh, and suck it Kissinger)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Thank god we Americans don't give a rat's ass about soccer, because that game yesterday was just downright embarassing. Oy.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Uh, when's NFL training camp open?

I would write about the crowd at the pub I escaped to on my lunch break to watch this game, but it would be like blogging a funeral, and what fun is that?

Looking for some solace? At least we didn't blame it on the field. Seriously, can the French be any more irritating? Any regular reader of this blog knows I'm not one to side with the boorish, freedom fry munching, anti-French crowd, but they really are a pain in the ass. Get over it and tie with dignity, would ya?

Oh, and this was a nice surprise: Owen Wilson apparently plays for the Czech Republic. Check him out, at right, in the man embrace with Flock of Seagulls guy. Who knew?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting And Vince Vaughn plays for Togo.

Lastly, the NYT Blog has perhaps the best US-centric coverage of the tourney. They liveblog every game, which is great when you're stuck at work. They also led me to this site, which offers a bevy of mp3 downloads of Soca Warrior anthems for all your Trinidadian rooting pleasure. It was this song, 'Fighter', that provided the thump to my weekend last Saturday. Tasty.

Deadspin: We Waited 4 Years for This?
WDM: Who Should I Cheer For?
Sportlitics: The Aftermath
Bush: World Cup? What's that?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting 'Stupid kid, why doesn't he just use his hands?'

p.s. I was going to return to political blogging today, but the Rove news depressed me too much. I may just keep this soccer thing up for a few more weeks.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The highlight, without a doubt, of my World Cup opening weekend, was the two hours spent at Sugarcane on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. Around 2 pm EST on Saturday, the scene spilling out onto Flatbush was unreal. The voices in and around the bar soared, the music thumped and a flashflood of joy spilled out onto the avenue, nearly stopping traffic. The Soca Warriors of Trindad & Tobago had conquered the Swedes.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Brooklyn's got your back.

The cause for all the celbration? A 0-0 tie. Such is the way in soccer. A scoreless tie can bring forth the grandest of emotions. For a team with odds of 750-1, making their first appearance ever in the World Cup, a sister-kisser with the Swedes is the equivalent of a championship. And this particular bombshell was formidably felt on Flatbush.

Before the match had begun, it was difficult to determine who to root for based solely on the limited research I had done:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Tough choice.

According to that, things seemed pretty even. But by the start of the 2nd half, the six foot blonde (and clear Swede) at the far end of the Sugarcane bar was singing right along with the Soca Warrior fans of T&T. It was clear what side to cheer for. This was the exact cultural passion punch I spoke of a couple of days ago, the one I had hoped to find. And oh did I find it, right there on Flatbush. At one point, someone behind the bar accidently kicked a cord and the audio went out, but the throng quickly filled the void, packing the air with the joyful song of the island nation's pride and joy. Clearly, we had a better time than those silly Swedes at Good World Bar, who inspired my favorite caption of the Cup thus far, "Swedish hipsters in dissary", courtesy of the NYT.

Needless to say, the T&T Soca Warriors are here, and they aren't just saying thank you and going home. Their former colonial lords, England, are next up, this coming Thursday. It should be interesting.

Speaking of England, WTF?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting 'That's using Paraguay's head!'

I didn't get out of bed soon enough to get out for the England/Paraguay match Saturday morning , but I apparently didn't miss much. My English friends even said it was a "shit match", which is why I believe Thursday's pairing against the Warriors may be interesting. I may have to sneak out of work and make my way back to Sugarcane for that one. Tomorrow, I'll try and creep out to catch some of the US/Czech match. And next weekend, I'll be at the Bohemien Beer Garden in Queens for a Group E doubleheader of Czech/Ghana and USA/Italy.

And for those of you who are looking for the good old DAYS, don't worry, I'll be sure to take some time to insult George W. Bush this week as well. But sometimes, diplomacy is best served on the pitch.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Minority (underdog) Rules.

Official: Soca Warriors
Bondy: Hooligans No More
Back Row: Why Am I Proud? and Group C Steals the Show
NYT: World Cup Tests Iranians' Ability to Have Fun in Public

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm not a soccer fan. I don't really know the rules all that well. I have no idea who's in the Top 10 world rankings. I can't tell you who won the Premiership or any other leagues or tournaments this past year. And I would probably have trouble coming up with even five players, and that includes Pele. But I love the World Cup.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Does the Cup logo make anyone else want to pop ecstasy pills and listen to Chemical Bros. for hours on end?

I fell in love with this quadrenial event at the same time I fell in love with New York City. Back in '98, on my first visit ever to Gotham, I was struck by the level of interest in the Cup. I'd been aware of the Cup before coming here of course, but never had I seen such open ferver. A crowded bar full of Germans here, a pub packed with rowdy Brits there, a clutch of Bolivians huddled around the display TV in the window of an electronics store on Canal St. If you have to choose a city in the States to watch this action, there can be no better place than New York City. Every nation is represented in these five boroughs, which in my opinion is one of the best things about living here. And so, when the World Cup comes around every four years, it's like soaking in a multi-culti cornucopia of nationalistic passion nearing the point of insanity. It's wonderful.

With action kicking off today, I already experienced a little of this as I was surprised by a hearty yelp from a huddle of excited men at the shoeshine stand on my to the subway this afternoon. Apparently, Ecuador had just scored its second goal against Poland. And so, in the coming weeks, I will be marinating in this sea of pride and passion and occasionally reporting back here on my experiences. Tomorrow, I have an English pub (England v. Paraguay), a Caribbean lounge (Trinidad & Tobago v. Sweden), and an Argentinian steakhouse (Argentina v. Ivory Coast) on my Cup Crawl route. Check back Sunday for a full report.

As for my pick to win the whole thing? Well, I'm kind of hoping Brazil will repeat, for one reason and one reason only:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Nice Cups.

Now let's play some futbol!

Yahoo: Full Coverage
NYT: Interactive Guide
Excely: Track the Action
Amy's Robot: Hey, We Care!
Deadspin: Coverage and Liveblogging
Tony Karon: World War on the Soccer Field

Thursday, June 08, 2006

First off, let me just state that I am in complete agreement that the death today of the world's most infamous endorser of New Balance footwear, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is unquestionably good news, no doubt about it. The man was a monster.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting 'Hey, anyone seen the other sneaker?'

After watching Dubya make his little speech this morning, I was actually close to giving the moron a little credit. I mean, come on, didn't we all think he'd come out in a flight suit? But for once, he didn't swagger out and boast that the mission was accomplished. Maybe it took him six years, but I thought for a second that maybe he'd actually learned that all that macho, bring it on bullshit didn't do anyone any good. Then I snapped out of it and realized he's probably just saving up all that swagger for the impending war with Iran.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting 'Wait'll ya see the size of my cod piece next time kid.'

But maybe there's another reason Bush didn't seem overly-excited. I wouldn't doubt if some in the Bush administration were actually kind of bummed by this news. Did anyone catch Rumsfeld's comments? He seemed downright depressed by the whole thing. Know why? Because he and his nutjob Neocon pals finally lost a key bogeyman. Remember, it was al-Zarqawi whom they always cited (falsely) as the connection between 9/11 and Iraq when they were trying to sell their precious little war. And that, of course, would explain why they didn't just kill the fat, goofy bastard four years ago when they had the chance.
NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in
Europe. The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it.
Now why in the world would the White House do such a thing?
By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.
Ohhhhh that's right, they needed him. Just think, if they had made the decision to smoke him then, perhaps the current nightmare of a sectarian civil war now raging across the country wouldn't be quite so bad. After all, he's credited with playing a large part in inciting that violence. But hey, Cheney and his puppetmasters needed him alive, goddam the deadly consequences.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And now, when they desperately needed a success in Iraq, they finally decided to pull the trigger. Of course, most experts are saying that his kiling now is too late and will most likely do little to stem the tide of violence which he helped to spark. Heckuva job guys.

So give the military it's due, they did their job and did it admirably. And be glad that al-Zarqawi is finally gone, just don't give the Bush administration any of the credit.

Conason: Death of a Useful Demon
Empire Burlesque: A Timely Death
Billmon: The Abu Zarqawi Hour Canceled
Michael Berg: 'It's Bush's fault, not Zarqawi's'

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

As suspected, after nearly a month away, it appears the world is indeed continuing to crumble, spiral out of control and fall into complete disarray. Lucky for us though, we have George W. Bush to fight the deadly scourge that threatens to consume and destroy us all: Boys Kissing.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Seriously, what the hell? I can't believe they're still playing the homo card. I guess that's all they've got. How much longer do we have to suffer these imbeciles? I haven't been following the ins and outs, but it sure doesn't seem like they've done much to right the sinking ship. But I swear, if anyone's 2006 vote is based solely on gay marriage, flag burning or any other such made-up issues, they ought to be immediately deported. We'll just give their jobs to an illegal, gay alien.

I must admit, it was kind of nice to step away from this nonsense for a few weeks. What's frightening though is that when you disengage for a while, things don't seem nearly as bad as they actually are. Honestly, the only story that really seemed to creep into mainstream consciesnesce was the Haditha massacre. Other than that, it was nothing but Taylor fucking Hicks and Brangelina. I really hope the malaise these scoundrels count on to sneak their shit past the general populace doesn't win the day again. Stupidity and disinterest is the lifeblood of these creatures... please, please, please don't let them get away with it again.

Of course, even if everyone does wake up, they'll just steal the damn thing. Again.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Fabulous sir, absolutely fabulous. By the way, how was Splash Day?

Shakes: It's About Love
DAYS Redux: W's Coming Out
PoliticsTV: Watch Bush's Bigot Act
Burnett: Campaign 2006 -- I'm With Stupid
N'week: '"I think it was purely political. I don't think he gives a shit about it." -- friend of W's

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting 'Don't worry, I will protect you all with my jazz hands.'

I didn't get to weigh in on this while I was away, but as a resident of New York City, as someone who works across the street from Ground Zero, I have a question for Secretary Skeletor.

If this
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting this Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting this Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting this Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting and this Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting aren't landmarks, then why do I have to navigate my way around all these goddamed tourists every day? Isn't there a rockpile in Wyoming they should be taking pictures of or something?

Thanks a lot Secretary Jerkoff.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting 'Surely, you must be joking?'

I really, really hate these bastards.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?