Posts Tagged ‘football’
October 27, 2010 | by Miranda Popkey
Coach Taylor is not just a football coach; he is a “molder of men.” I was more like the young teacher played by Austin Nichols who shows up in season two just long enough to give Julie a copy of The World According to Garp and then get yelled at by her mother. I was twenty-two, fresh out of college. I was hardly molded myself.
I was living in McAllen, a booming border town, where I taught English II and ESL to high-school students. My twenty sophomores couldn’t, for the most part, read on grade level, but they could read. Though I struggled to teach them, for example, how to identify the tone and theme of a text, how to parse how each was constructed, and what purpose each served, I could at least be sure that they understood the words coming out of my mouth. This was by no means true in my two ESL classes. I was supposed to be preparing my students for the state-mandated ninth-grade English exam—though it didn’t go very far beyond reading comprehension, it was nonetheless challenging for students who didn’t read English—but reading in class was time consuming and frustrating for everyone involved. Mostly we memorized basic vocabulary words and conjugated verbs.
September 27, 2010 | by Miranda Popkey
My love for Brett Favre—it was always Favre, and only incidentally his team, that I loved—made me something of an oddity in Northern California. “What a bum,” my grandfather, a 49ers fan, would grumble, examining my first serious crush. “The man can’t even shave for Monday Night Football.” This was true. Favre’s manly scruff was a trait I found charming as a child, seductive as a teenager, and slightly depressing as a young adult.
It’s also the key to his allure. Brett Favre can play perfectly without being perfect. He has—still—one of the best arms the NFL has ever seen, but he isn’t a Tom Brady touchdown-making machine. He’s not a robot from the Manning factory. He’s just a guy, trying to do his job, who often forgets to shave in the morning. He’s played hurt, he’s played sad, he’s played bearded, and yes, he’s played terribly.In fact, how terribly he sometimes plays is part of the magic. In the early days, with the Packers, he would throw four interceptions in the first half, come back in the third quarter with a few well-placed passes to put the Pack within six, and then, with thirty-five seconds left on the clock in the fourth, he would go into the no-huddle offense, calling audibles just before the snap, sneaking forty-yard completions into double coverage, emerging breathless, victorious, arms raised. Even then, his heart was more powerful than his body.
But after a heartbreaking NFC Championship loss to the Giants in the winter of 2007, a game essentially ended by an interception (last-minute interceptions had, by that point, replaced his Hail Mary completions), even I knew it was time for him to retire. I also knew that he wouldn’t be able to until he had made it back to the Super Bowl. Favre has one Super Bowl ring, which he won in 1996, as a shaggy-haired twenty-seven-year-old. He took the Packers back the following year, but they lost. He spent the next decade trying to prove that victory wasn’t a fluke, but with close of the 2007 game, he had squandered his last chance.
We both cried when he announced his retirement. And when he changed his mind, it was tempting, given my emotional investment, to feel betrayed. It seemed like a classically cocky move from an aging athlete who didn’t know when to quit. But it wasn’t.
Most people know when it’s time to retire. At thirty-eight, Brett Favre had just given up the one thing he had likely been perfecting since he was an impressionable eight-year-old. He was a confused middle-aged man doing one of the most pathetic, desperate, moving things a human being can do. He was a guy begging for a second chance. He was the saddest man in professional football.
When Favre pleaded with the Packers to take him back, detractors focused on Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s backup, who was ready to be QB1. But Rodgers is young—only twenty-six. He has seasons to prove himself; Favre doesn't. And though more than a decade older, Favre is still the better quarterback, still better than most quarterbacks. Last year he led the Vikings to the NFC conference game. He threw an interception in the last seconds of the fourth quarter, and his team lost. I cried because, at this point, watching Brett Favre play football may be the only thing sadder than being Brett Favre. Every loss is proof that desire gets you less than ten yards. Every completion, every victory reminds me of his tearful pleas, even as he makes good on their inherent promises. He is asking for just one more season, one more game, one more chance. And because he’s still good enough, because his heart aches for redemption so badly it (almost) trumps logic, physics, and modern medicine, I am still saying yes.
Editor’s note: This post originally stated that Brett Favre threw an interception in overtime in the 2009 NFC Championship game. We regret the error.
July 9, 2010 | by Will Frears
There are two games left. The third place playoff takes place on Saturday, Uruguay against Germany in a game often described as one nobody wants to play in. It can be well worth watching though—teams have been known to forget about tactics and play with something approximating wild abandon, which in this World Cup will come as some relief.
Then on Sunday, it’s Spain against Holland; one of two favorites going into the tournament against the perennially-highly-fancied World Cup bridesmaids. Neither team has won it before, so whichever way it goes, there will be a new name on the list. It will be the first time a European team has won in another continent, a particular triumph for Old Europe, after the continent as a whole was dismissed following the group round, the commentators agreeing that the new champion would inevitably come from Latin America.
Both teams play the same formation, the 4-2-3-1 that uses the holding midfielders to prevent the other team from attacking. But oh, they do it so differently. Holland plays with two thugs there, Mark Van Bommel and Nigel de Jong to break up the attack and to do so by any means necessary or at least invisible. Once they have won possession, their only job — one they do very well — is to give the ball to Wesley Sneidjer, the conductor of the Dutch attack.
The leader of the pair is Van Bommel, who has managed to somehow commit 14 fouls, some of them proper horrors, whilst only getting one yellow card for dissent. Over the course of the tournament, Van Bommel’s star has risen in exact relationship to the amount of opprobrium heaped on him by fans. He is nasty, sly, always the first to complain to the ref about some perceived injury done to him—quite often when he was the one dishing out the punishment rather than the other way around. There is something reptilian about him; nasty eyes and an absolutely massive jaw. Without him the Dutch would never have gotten this far; he is a beast. Read More »
July 9, 2010 | by David Wallace-Wells
In the World Cup, as in any tournament, half of the field is eliminated in the first round, and half again in each succeeding round—a method of crowning a champion devised by Zeno and guaranteed to bring the whole thrilling spectacle to a buyer’s-remorse anticlimax. (You can see the diminishing interest in the now-trickling coverage in outlets both mainstream and semi-pro.) Whichever second-rate European nation triumphs on Sunday—if they can control the midfield as smugly as they did against Germany in Wednesday’s semifinal it will surely be Spain—will look a lot less truly top-dog than simply last-man-standing.
In his Winner-Take-All Society, the academic Robert Frank famously described the American economy as such a tournament, devoted to the production of champions at the expense of the welfare of many many losers; in South Africa this summer we will have thirty-one of them to one likely-uninspiring winner, a fairly devastating ratio. But it’s not only the partisans of those thirty-one countries that’ll be left bewildered, wondering what might have been, all the rest of us will, too, indeed anyone who paid any attention to the opening of the tournament and its round-the-clock stream of giddy action and deluded, infinite-horizon expectation. The games played in those early days were often stilted by deliberative tactics, player caution, and coaching prudence, and their outcomes were rarely decisive. But they embodied what another academic, Barry Schwartz, might’ve called the paradox of chance—we want each game to contain all the possibilities and promise of the entire cup, to unfold as though the shape and character of the whole month-long tournament hangs completely on its outcome, but we don’t want any particular result to disclose the possibility of any other. On this score a tournament is designed to disappoint. But those early games offer, always, the best of both worlds, yielding perhaps less quality of play than the contests that follow but making up for it, many times over, in volume. Or, as I like to call it, abundance.
June 26, 2010 | by Will Frears
So far in the World Cup, it’s Donald Rumsfeld 1 Pele 0. The former Defense Secretary’s sneering dismissal of Old Europe seems, in this realm anyway, prophetic, as anciens regimes slink home to the continent in disgrace; while Pele’s famous pronouncement that an African team will win the World Cup by the year 2000 seems unlikely to come true before 2014 at the earliest.
It’s been a strange cup so far because there’s only been one good game: Italy-Slovakia, which only really took off in the barnstorming last ten minutes. There have been exciting moments, Landon Donovan scoring against Algeria most clearly. (Though if you want proof of the World Cup’s triumph over the historical anti–soccer American bias, look no further than the mayhem that greeted the desperate injury time winner; it’s Algeria, man, seriously.) There was also South Africa going two nil up against France, Messi against the entire Nigerian defense, and perhaps most memorably of all Patrice Evra against Robert Duverne. But it’s hard to remember a whole game, and there has been nothing so far that compares to either of the semi finals from four years ago; Italy v Germany or France v Brazil. (There is also the France-Brazil from 1986 that is, I think, the single best soccer match I have ever seen.) Read More »
June 25, 2010 | by David Wallace-Wells
The group stage of the 2010 World Cup ends today—the group stage of the first African World Cup, as we’re reminded again and again by the soccer salesmanship masquerading as studio commentary before, during, and after each game. And of the six teams drawn from what is being called the “home continent,” only Ghana has managed to advance. (They’ll play the U.S. on Saturday afternoon.) The bafana bafana of South Africa are the first host nation to get knocked out so early, despite delivering the tournament’s spectacular opening goal. That goal, we were told, ignited the hearts of fans from Gibraltar to the Cape of Good Hope. And the failure of Algeria, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and South Africa to advance has been called an “African tragedy.”
No one is talking about a “European tragedy,” though six European sides are already heading home. (Tournament favorite Spain are in danger, too: they have to beat enterprising Chile this afternoon to advance.) And no commentators would think to describe the early exits of France and Italy as disappointments for, say, Merkel or Zapatero—or to imagine the pubs of London in a state of mourning following a surprise loss by Germany. No one would believe it if they did, continents being things that are usually divided into, you know, nations—nations often made hostile by proximity and divided by borders typically set by, you know, wars. And soccer being the way Europeans litigate hostilities in the age of the Euro.
And yet the air is thick with something in Soccer City, the Johannesburg complex where (imported?) production teams have been preparing for us all those montages of cheetahs, primitivist graphics, and Jungle Book voice-overs we’ve been eating up all tournament. We don’t have a neat African equivalent for the term Orientalism, but how about vuvuzelism?