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A World Cup Street Fight

June 16th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Russia 2018, soccer, World Cup

Just saw a memorable match in the 2018 Russia World Cup.

It may go largely unnoticed, given that earlier in the day Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick and Argentina was held to a draw by tiny (but doughty) Iceland, population 350,000 … and even earlier France fought off the gritty Aussies in a 2-1 match.

My Game of the Day was the third: Peru versus Denmark.

Soccer is a contact sport, of course, but this one turned into a street fight … maybe the roughest game I have seen in a World Cup.

It was Peru that brought the aggression. It was Denmark that staggered from the onslaught, and the game was fascinating from start to semi-surprising finish.

Some things to know about Peru v Denmark:

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Best of Times: Group Stage at the World Cup

June 14th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Russia 2018, soccer, Spain, World Cup

This is as good as it gets, in world sports.

More diverse than an Olympics. Far wider global interest than in cricket or rugby or basketball.

The first two rounds of the Fifa World Cup soccer group stage.

Eleven consecutive days, this time around, at the 2018 Russia World Cup, of 32 teams still with a chance to advance to the knockout round.

Yes, even Saudi Arabia, which was routed 5-0 by the hosts in the opening match of the competition tonight. (The score is not quite fair; most of the Saudi players were fasting, on the final day of Ramadan, and as has happened before when the Saudis play during the fast, they faded in the final 20 minutes. But, no, they did not show much in the first 70 minutes, either.)

So. No one can be mathematically eliminated until after the second batch of games have been played. On the 11th day of the tournament. Everyone can still dream, till then.

Meantime, we get to watch a broad selection of the world’s teams, from Japan to Mexico, from Argentina to Iran and Spain, and it is quite fun. To me, the greatest stretch of time on the sports calendar.

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Today’s List: My Five World Cup Favorites

June 13th, 2018 · No Comments · English Premier League, Football, Germany, Lists, Russia 2018, soccer, World Cup

I find it nearly impossible to be a neutral observer in any competition. Give me five minutes in a game involving teams I don’t know … and I will have a favorite. It could be about geography or playing style or history, but I will have made a choice.

A girlfriend from a long, long time ago noticed this, as it pertained to my approach to life. Up or down, left or right, right or wrong, home team or visitors. She said I practiced dualism and didn’t see the gray between the black and white. Hmm.

Which leads to today’s topic: With the 2018 World Cup beginning tomorrow, let’s rank the five teams I would like to do well — from the perspective of “always rooting for them to win unless they play someone else on my list”. In which case the higher-ranked team in my personal rankings will be my favorite.

(And no U.S. to get the inevitable No. 1 spot in this item.)

Following this?

I suppose this is a list, and I never do enough of those. People love lists. Even those who are not dualists. Read on.

We will do this counting down from my fifth-favorite team.

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One Last Look Back at U.S. World Cup Failure

June 12th, 2018 · No Comments · Football, Landon Donovan, Russia 2018, soccer

The tournament begins June 14 in Moscow, when host Russia faces Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup.

So it is getting late to be talking about the U.S. failure to compete in the greatest competition in global sports.

But I am going to do just that, one last time. (Well, maybe one last time.)

Two threads here:

1. How close the Yanks came to qualifying.

2. Why they did not.

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Hey, Let’s Go See the USA Play France!

June 10th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Football, France, soccer

Usually, the hare-brained schemes are mine. Or were.

A night college football game followed by a 1 p.m. NFL kickoff the next day — in some other state — followed by a flight back to SoCal after filing. … The plan to drive from SoCal over the Rockies and to Denver in about 22 hours, in the midst of winter. … The numerous 450-mile, same-day round trips to Las Vegas for boxing — which invariably ended with me slapping myself to keep awake while driving at 3 a.m.

This hare-brained scheme, however, was Leah’s.

It went like this:

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A Look Back at our 2018 Camino de Santiago

June 6th, 2018 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain

Final notes and thoughts on our spring 2018 pilgrimage along the Camino Frances to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela …

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LeBron James: Greatest of All Time

June 2nd, 2018 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

We have at least three more games in the 2018 NBA playoffs to mull this, but over the past weeks and months I have come to believe that LeBron James is the league’s GOAT — greatest of all time.

Is he better than Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell? Absolutely, I am confident he is, and I saw them all play.

Better than Michael Jordan, widely considered, these 20 years past, the greatest player?

Now he is.

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Two Races to See the Botafumeiro

June 1st, 2018 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain

The final day of our medium-sized pilgrimage to Santiago featured two threads of action.

One thread was three of us up at dawn, driving our senior/middle-aged bodies as hard as we could to walk 20 kilometers to the cathedral near the northwest corner of Spain, arriving in time to see the special noon pilgrim’s mass.

The other thread concerned our injury-sidelined companion, whose Camino was ended the previous night by a painful and scary looking big toenail (alert the podiatrist!) and her scheming to arrive at the cathedral, via taxi, at the right moment to secure some prime seats at the mass.

Which, yes, of course, could feature one of the highlights of the pilgrimage — the swinging, at astonishing heights, of the renown botafumeiro in the final minutes of the mass.

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The Famed Camino Arrow and ‘Mileage’ Marker

May 31st, 2018 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain

When treading the path of the western world’s greatest pilgrimage, the typical walker cannot help but peek — OK, stare — at the sandy-gray “mileage” markers that helpfully guide everyone along.

They serve three functions for those headed to Santiago de Compestela, and the cathedral there.

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Selective Memory on the Camino

May 30th, 2018 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain

Both Leah and I had vivid memories of the events of Day 3 during our 2017 pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It was a difficult day for both of us, for different reasons, and both of us had to overcome some trepidation. And did.

What was curious about the events of yesterday?

Each of us feared the walk for reasons that never really existed. Our memories were faulty. Our recollection of what went wrong — and what might go wrong — was flawed.

And now we have another leg of the walk to Santiago behind us.

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