Team skylines 2.0

Link to the first installment, which includes an explanation of what’s going on here.

xMoscowMoscow:  San Antonio Spurs

Moscow is a strange duck.  It has many older but recognizable features like the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Seven Sisters, as well as cultural touchstones like the Kremlin and Red Square.  This echoes the robust history of the original ABA San Antonio Spurs and its unique and irreplaceable characters like George “Iceman” Gervin.  But the city’s actual skyline is dominated, in particular, by a cluster of modern towers that stand apart from the historic underbelly.  Continue reading

What a Messi made

Why Lionel Messi should thank Michael Phelps, and other ramblings about historical legacies.

It was a chance to stand beside, if not pass, his country’s greatest soccer star.  A rare moment, in his prime, when he could take full advantage of his singular talent.  A golden opportunity to enter the rarefied air of the consensus all-time greatest sporting legends.  Messi (with a massive assist from an excellent defense) made his Argentina squad relevant, at times impregnable, and nearly unbeaten at this World Cup.  But in the end, once the comfort of the group stages were behind him, he looked all too ordinary and could not quite inspire his countrymen to glory.  Even though he dazzled with his usual mesmerizing dribbles and pristine shots, and even though Argentina made it farther than most expected them to, and even though he was even awarded with the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball (best player) award, many will judge this World Cup as a detriment to Messi’s legacy rather than a benefit.  It’s illogical.  It’s not fair.  It’s also sure to happen.  Just look at his face below — despondent for his country’s loss, and surely aware of its ramifications for him as an individual.  Here’s why that’s a bunch of bull.

Lionel MessiPhoto credit: Clive Rose, Getty Images

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A Luis cannon

Maybe it’s all an elaborate toothpaste advertisement.  Maybe his scoring prowess is derived from some form of medieval cannibalism.  Maybe he has a “taste” for the dramatic.  Regardless, the Luis Suarez clown show marches on. Suarez, a singular talent and loose cannon who plies his trade for Liverpool and, more relevantly, for his native Uruguay, has been a rising star on the world soccer scene for several years.  He has scored fantastic goals, energized successful teams, enraged onlookers with flops, and nearly exploded the soccer world four years ago with his strategic handball that bought Uruguay a ticket to the semifinals at the 2010 World Cup.  Now, four days after receiving a four-month ban from soccer, as well as a nine-match international ban and a large fine from FIFA for biting his World Cup group stage Italian opponent Giorgio Chiellini, the Uruguayan striker is making waves again, this time for an apology.

suarezbitePhoto credit: Getty Images

First, some background.  Soon after the incident, Suarez was unapologetic (to say the least).  More specifically, he denied the bite and claimed that he had “lost his balance” and not actually attempted to nosh on the Italian entree in front of him.  This claim did not exactly ring true for me, and, presumably, for whatever percentage of the observing public is not from Uruguay. The primary factor working against Suarez, other than the fact that he obviously freakin’ bit Chiellini, is that, as you surely know by now, he had already been suspended twice in his career for biting opposing players.  In April of last year, Suarez was banned for 10 games for nibbling on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, whose Serbian flesh was simply too irresistible for the clearly hungry Suarez.  He issued an apology for that incident, saying he had committed “inexcusable behavior.”  In 2010, he munched PSV’s Ottman Bakkal during a play stoppage.  That particular bite involved an absolutely unequivocal lunge toward Bakkal’s trapezius muscle that legitimately made it seem like Suarez was seeking nutrients from the victim’s jugular. Continue reading

Klose but no cigar

He might be the least celebrated soccer legend of all time, at least on this side of the Atlantic.  Even though World Cup coverage is everywhere these days, and even though he plays for one of the most prominent national teams in the world, 36 year old Polish-born German striker Miroslav Klose gets about as little attention in the United States as possible, considering he is tied for the all time record for World Cup goals.

Klose1

Klose’s recent goal as a sub in the 2-2 draw between Germany and Ghana was his 15th, tying him with Brazilian legend Ronaldo.  He also has a few more achievements and oddities to his name.  He won the Golden Boot for most goals at the 2006 World Cup.  He is one of only two players to have scored five goals at two different World Cups.  He is the only player to have scored four goals at three different World Cups.  He is one of only three players to have scored at four different World Cups.  He recently passed Gerd Muller as the all time top scorer for the German national team. He once scored five goals in a game while playing in the Italian Serie A.  He was the 2006 German footballer of the year.

His record tying goal came on Ronaldo’s home soil against Ghana, while Ronaldo’s 15th goal had come on German soil against Ghana.  Klose’s career smacks of “chosen one” status, and he seems to simply be the type of player who rises to the occasion on the biggest stage.  In this way, he is very similar to Landon Donovan, and stands as a primary argument for why Donovan perhaps should have been included on the 2014 U.S. roster — some fellas just show up.  Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the German national team has never lost a game when Klose has scored one of his 70 international goals.

So why the hell haven’t Americans heard of him?

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Cutting a handsome figure: Sports team skylines

HongKong from above

Every city has a feel to it. Ah yes, the fountains of Rome, the smog monsters of Beijing, and the Ian Zeiring Chippendales posters of Vegas.1

Walking the streets of a city is the best way to get a sense of its ambiance — a person strolling through New Orleans’ French Quarter would never mistake their surroundings for the streets of Cairo.  But every city also has a larger visual identity, and a city’s skyline is the best way to get a sense of this broad aesthetic character.  Think of it as the shadow that each city casts on the wall while it awkwardly dances in candlelight in an 80’s teen movie.  The silhouette created by a city is partially determined by population and wealth and development prospects, of course, but it also reflects the image that the city wants to present.  The steady low rooftops of Washington, D.C., broken only by historical monuments and colossal political egos, cut a very different figure and send a very different message than the contempo towers of the Frankfurt skyline, which advertise the city’s status as one of Europe’s leading centers of finance and cocaine.

Likewise, every sports franchise has a history.  Some teams have short and forgettable histories, like the Charlotte Bobcats, who will be soon changing their name to the Hornets to begin that forgetting process as soon as possible.  Some have long and storied histories, like Real Madrid and the New York Yankees.  If you plotted a team’s success and identity over time, what would it look like? Continue reading

March Madness: The American Way

The NCAA Tournament is the most American of all sports institutions.  Yes, even more than NASCAR.

MarchMadness

Here in the U.S. of A., we are often very results oriented.  The process that leads to those results often gets forgotten or lost in the shuffle, or even disregarded in some systemic way.  For example, our presidential elections are decided by an abstruse system that officially turns a blind eye to a candidate who wins the popular vote if he or she loses the electoral college.  There’s a system in place that is used to determine a winner, and if someone else believes that it would have been more “fair” to crown a different winner, the system pays no mind to such beliefs.  This idea is never more true than in our sports leagues.

We are a playoffs country.  Continue reading