Sunday, June 27, 2010

Soccer defined

For weeks I was so sure the US was going to end up playing Germany in this afternoon's game.  After all, who wouldn't have picked England to finish first in the group?  In case of the matchup that never came and the eventual knockout blow by Germany, I had done some research.  I found the perfect quote that I was going to use.  Instead, the US finished first in the group and played against the second place team from Group D.  And it was (as I'm sure you'll find in articles everywhere) deja vu all over again.  In 2006 Ghana delivered the death blow that knocked the US out of the World Cup.  That was a 2-1 loss in the final game of group play.

Last night proved no different.  The game looked just like the previous three games.  The US came out unprepared and paid an early price.  They tied it back up early in the second half, sending the game into extra time.  But Ghana scored quickly in the extra period.  This time the magic had run out.  This time there was no dramatic come from behind victory for the US.  They had plenty of chances and fought hard but just couldn't connect.  Only another loss and early dismissal from the World Cup courtesy of the same opponent from 2006. 

And that quote I previously mentioned?  It still works pretty well for the US.  Former English striker Gary Lineker was once asked to define soccer.  Here's the quote, with a sleight adjustment:
Soccer is a game played by 22 people that run around, play the ball, and one referee who makes a slew of mistakes, and in the end Germany Ghana always wins.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to today's England-Germany match.  However, after last night's game, you can excuse me if there's a bit of enthusiasm missing on my behalf.  Nevertheless, it should be a great game.  I'm curious to see if England (and specifically a Mr. Rooney) have finally woken up or if the above-mentioned original quote can be used once more.  As for Germany, they seem to have a few injuries to worry about.  Without the injuries, I would say this is Germany's game for the taking.  Now I'm not too sure.  If Germany fields their normal squad, I think they win 2-1.

What? You think I'd bet against Paul the Octopus?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Der Kaiser goes Lion-baiting

National fußball hero Franz Beckenbauer won't let up.  He's been attacking the English squad from the start of the tournament.  In light of tomorrow's clash between Germany and England, he's really cranking it up.  Given the injury status of at least two of Germany's top players, I'd be at least a little worried if I were him.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Things that give me stress

Wow is it getting crazy around here.  Between coordinating wedding plans and watching more football than I should be allowed, I'm nearly burned out.  You'll be happy to know we finally found a venue for the reception.  Thanks to our roommate, we'll be celebrating at a restaurant owned by her cousin.  To be honest, he made us a deal we couldn't refuse.  It's a cozy little place and we've never been disappointed with the food there.  That has solved a major headache and we've been able to knock out a whole lot of other things this week.  The cake has been ordered.  I've purchased a new suit.  (My pleas for an Evil Knieval-style outfit, however, fell on deaf ears.)  All that's left is to get a new pair of shoes. 

Oh yeah, we also need to coordinate some family details.  I've now got four family members flying over from the US.  Given how tightly this has all been arranged, I didn't expect anyone from home to be able to show up.  I'm so excited for everyone to make it here and to be able to show them around town.  Unfortunately however, we still have to work out some minor details... such as where everyone is staying.  It's like someone told us regarding these wedding plans: for each thing you think you take care of, there's a whole other set of issues that come with the solution.

Case in point: in between all this, I've also taken it upon myself to create the photo slideshow/video thing.  We've been asking family and friends for some old photos to include in the video.  Everyone's been helping out, but now we need to scan these photos.  That takes time too.  If it's not one thing it's another.  And yes, if you're coming, you have no choice but to watch the video.  But don't worry, I'm doing my best to keep it short.

All this reminds me that there is probably going to come a day where the blog posts dry up again for a little bit.  Once everyone arrives and the big day approaches, I'm probably going to have very little time to write.  Just an early warning.


While the above mentioned things give me quite a bit of stress lately, at least I can control them. The US National Soccer team?  Well, at least the stress is always over in about two hour's time.
The US managed to beat Algeria in the closing minutes of the game allowing them to advance to the next round of the World Cup.  Just hours later, Germany beat Ghana to advance.  That was a much better day than the previous Friday.

Once again, I had given up hope.  I will no longer allow myself to do that again.  Not with this team.  In the middle of the first half, yet another US goal was disallowed.  That's twice in two games.  I didn't know what else they needed to do to prove they can win a game.  Fortunately Donovan's goal in stoppage time was something no one could deny.  It's worth another look.

What did such a big win mean for the US and the country in general?  Here's a Daily Show clip that explains it all.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - US Beats Algeria
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

For those not living here, almost all the games here are aired on public TV.  But some of these games that were going simultaneously were not carried on free TV.  If you were lucky, your team's game would be the "feature" game.  Then, throughout the game, they might cut back to the other game to see what's going on.  Unless you've got pay-per-view tv or are at a bar, you may not see much of the "other" game.

The US-Algeria game ran at the same time as England-Slovenia.  Given the fact that (1) I am in Europe and (2) England is generally a much more popular football team, I knew the chances of the US game being aired fully on regular TV would be pretty slim.  Therefore we went back to the one "American" bar in town to watch this game.  We had previously watched the US-England game from there.  That first time, there were quite a few England fans.  I figured that was acceptable, especially given the fact that they probably should have won and would have loved to throw it in everyone else's face.

This time around, the game was on a weekday afternoon.  It wasn't nearly as crowded as the previous game, but there was still a lot of English fans.  Maybe as many as there was American fans.   The management caved to their demands (and drinking ratio I'm sure) and ran the England game on about 80% of the TVs, as well as the audio from that game.  We had to squint our eyes and watch the US game without audio on smaller TVs across the bar.

This town has about 30 Irish/British style pubs.  These are not good enough to watch your game there?  Hell, there is one directly next door.  This was the one place I thought I would be able to see the entire US game in it's entirety.  Well, I guess I was able to.  And the England game ended earlier, so the big ending was up on all the TVs just in time.  But seriously, just change the name and decor of your place and call it a British pub.  It might as well have been.  Needless to say, I will be watching tomorrow afternoon's game at home.  I have to... I gotta finish making that wedding video one of these days!

I'd give an in-depth preview for tomorrow's game, but I realize it really isn't necessary.  If you're interested, you know where to look.  Getting out of the group round was an accomplishment in and of itself.  To me, anything beyond that is gravy.  Ghana beat the US in group play during the previous World Cup.  They just lost to a pretty solid looking Germany 1-0.  But they are Africa's last hope for a representative country.  All I can say is that you can never count this US team out.  Prediction time: US comes away with the win, again in the second half.  US 2-1 over Ghana. 

And finally, tired of those vuvuzelas?  Tired of the vuvuzela bashing?  I'm tired of both, but this was too good to ignore. 

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - Goal Diggers
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bring on the Desert Foxes

Algeria vs USA

I'm all with his strategy in the above link.  Attack from the get go and hope Algeria finds themselves too stretched out playing with three forwards.  But that's always easier said than done. 

I don't know what else to say.  Win and they move on.  Lose and they're on their way back to the States.  I don't think most people predicted the situation Group C would be in by the last game.  And no one would have predicted such a strong game by Algeria against England.  This seemed like the easiest game in the group stage to predict.  But Algeria has only been gaining confidence.  So this leaves it all up in the air for me. And apparently for everyone on Team USA.

I like his first lineup here.  I'm curious to see what Buddle can bring to the game aside from a few chuckles by me whenever the German announcers say his name with that hard "t" sound.   

Fun fact: here's another preview that gives a little background on Algeria's previous World Cup appearances.  For shame, West Germany and Austria!  (More on that disgraceful performance can be read about here.)

Another fun fact: Look for a battle of teammates.  USA's Michael Bradley and Algeria's Karim Matmour play together for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga.

Not-so-fun-fact: Since the 1950 World Cup, the United States have lost all of their third and final matches in the opening group stage.

Prediction time: Team USA comes out slow as usual and finds themselves down 1-0 quickly with another defensive lapse, but comes back once again to win 2-1.  I hope.  But what the hell do I know?

Monday, June 21, 2010

I love a parade

... except when it kicks off outside my bedroom window at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. 

Yesterday morning we were treated to the lovely sound of a marching band opening the festivities for the local schützenverein's festival.  What is a schützenverein? Think the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes complete with uniforms and funny traditional hats, but add some guns to the festivities.  Seriously, check it out here.

We wandered over to the fest later in the day.  They had bumper cars and a carousel for the kids, a couple of carnival midway games, a booth selling candy and another selling food.  And they had a monstrous beer tent set up where most of the festivities must have taken place earlier.  And by festivities I mean drinking.  We didn't observe too many adults walking in straight lines as we sat and enjoyed a bratwurst and kölsch.

It is good to know that these are the people who are allowed to have guns in this country.  That target competition must have been a sight to see.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A good day if you love Yugoslavian football

Huh... well, at least I got half the score right.

2-2.  It could have been worse.  It certainly looked like it at half time.  Then again, it should have been way better.  The US got it handed to them for the first 45 minutes, then stormed back in the second half to score three two goals and win tie the game.  It looked as if they had the go-ahead goal in the closing minutes of the game, but the referee called it back.  As of yet, I still haven't found a written explanation for disallowing the third goal. Unless of course he meant all the holding the US was doing involved in.

I don't know why this team can't come out and play a full game like they did in the second half.  They always seem to play better once they get punched in the face.  At least this time they got it together before it was too late.  Landon Donovan stepped it up big time and Michael Bradley seemed to put the exclamation point on the evening's affair.  It is just a shame that last one did not count.  See for yourself.

I still don't find myself an expert by any measure, but I took some satisfaction in that much of what I feared came true.  Slovenia came out guns blazing and scored a relatively quick goal.  Their second came off a quick counter-attack.  As usual, the US stumbled for a long stretch following the previous big game.  Sloppy passes and poor discipline had me groaning in agony for a good 50 minutes.  And yes, I'll admit it, I thought all was lost by halftime.  You have to admire the resilience of a team like that. 

The other two games yesterday were just as shocking, if not more so.  Germany lost 1-0 to Serbia while England played Algeria to a scoreless draw.  Playing one man down, Germany kept pressure on Serbia, but just couldn't find an equalizer.  One of the heroes of the last game (and FC Köln's own) Lucas Podolski failed to find the back of the net on a penalty kick, essentially curbing the enthusiasm of an entire nation for at least a few days.  Here's a rather fair and balanced assessment of that game.

And to cap off a day of surprises, England, mighty England, looked no different against Algeria than they did against the US.  At this point I don't know if that makes both the US and Algeria look that much better as teams, or if England is truly much worse than everyone expected.  Either way, the two draws by England and the US leave both teams with a pair of points and trailing group leader Slovenia.  But as tough as Algeria played yesterday, I am much happier the US is facing them and not Slovenia again.  The US is not out of it yet.  As they say at the end of all those cliff hangers, stay tuned...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do you know your enemy?

Slovenia vs USA

First thing's first.  Who IS Slovenia?

According to one writer, it looks like the US is facing their doppelganger

One of their more dangerous players, striker Milevoje Novakovic, plays for FC Köln.  He was the captain of the team until he had some sort of spat with the new trainer last season.
According to the experts, Slovenia is a more defensive-oriented team, preferring to sit back and wait for a chance to counter attack.  However, after their 1-0 victory in the opening game against Algeria, I wouldn't be surprised to see them push harder offensively for another three points, essentially guaranteeing a spot in the next round.  I don't think they'll have much of a chance for success next week against England.  Keep in mind that Slovenia hasn't lost a game since November 2009.

This game could make or break the World Cup for both sides.  On paper, this seems like something the US should be able to handle.  But the US seems to have a bad track record when they come off big games like last Saturday's draw.  Hopefully they can shake that off tomorrow. 

A bit of history here.  Eight years ago, the US shocked everyone by beating Portugal 3-2.  They followed that up with a 1-1 draw versus South Korea.  South Korea, by the way, ended up finishing fourth in the group.  Flash forward four years later.  The US ties eventual World Cup champions Italy 1-1.  The only team to not lose to Italy in the entire tournament.  That was followed up by a 2-1 loss to Ghana. 

For those of you really into the technical aspects, here's one last one to check out.

Prediction time: Slovenia's winning streak comes to an end, overwhelmed by the speed of the US attack down the sides.  If Tim Howard really is ok, he'll make the crucial stops and the US comes away with a not-so-easy 2-0 victory.

I haven't seen when the Weigh-In is scheduled...

...but the way US Goalkeeper Tim Howard is talking, it looks like we're in for a boxing match on Friday.  Enjoy some pre-game smack talk here.  More pre-game match-ups and a prediction posted here within the next day or so. 

Normally I work on Friday afternoons until 3:30.  The US-Slovenia game kicks off at 4.  It is about an hour commute home with the train, a half hour by car.  (Although lately it has taken nearly an hour by car due to the fun roadwork along the river.)  Initially I was prepared to find a bar near work and watch the game there.  But today I received a rare good email from my boss.  Classes are canceled Friday afternoon so that the kids can watch the football match.  No, not the US one, the earlier one, Germany-Serbia.  So... a bonus day off work, a chance to watch the US play, on a day that She is actually off work too! Wow, maybe I'll go out and play the lottery.

In regards to the Germany game, it seems we're not done with bad videos yet.  I just caught another one during the post-game report of the South Africa-Uruguay game.  Although it features some of the Cologne skyline, it'll definitely make you appreciate the technical ability of the last one I posted. 

I wish I could post some bad music videos in support of the US Men's team.  Unfortunately, apart from some well done Nike commercials, I just don't think there's that much interest back home for people to take the initiative to do something like that.  I guess team members have to take it upon themselves to make one.  Check this one out from four years ago, featuring team member Clint Dempsey.

And finally, it is not very often I find myself agreeing with conservative David Brooks, but we may finally have something in common.  Here's a little he said / she said.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Every Auslanders favorite place

Oh Bezirksrathaus, how I love thee.  From your freakish zombie-rising-from-the-ground sculpture outside,

 to your unfinished waiting area with buzzing fluorescent lights (in the same state of disrepair since my first visit nearly a year ago, minus a water cooler),

to your cheerful employees who are always willing to serve me er, eventually.  (I know they only ignore me waiting outside their office because they have much more important things to do.)

Yesterday we returned to the sight of so much joy, Central Bureaucracy.  We each had a few things to take care of there today.  She did all her paperwork necessary so that she can receive her new passport and IDs (with new last name!) after we're married.  After that, we dropped in on our favorite civil servant to ask a few questions regarding my visa status after the marriage.

There was a two hour mid-day break at this next office and we were done with the above-mentioned paperwork early.  We patiently waited outside the office until they re-opened.  There's not much of a system when it comes to visiting these people.  No secretary, no take-a-number, no sign-in sheet.  No, you just sit and wait outside the office until the previous customer leaves.  Then you know the office is free.  There's no window allowing you to see in there, so if you arrive and there's no wait, you have to knock on the door, timidly open it and ask for permission to come in.  Everything you do is in complete deference because they alone seem to hold the power over giving you a visa or kicking you out of the country.  

So there we are waiting outside her office.  It is just two of us.  There are no other customers waiting.  Soon a door opens across the hall and our civil servant enters.  We know it is her because we recognize her from our previous visits.  She crosses the hall, stands directly next to us, unlocks her office door, enters, closes the door and locks it behind her.  Not a word.  Huh.

It is 1:52 and the office hours begin again at 2.  Let's wait.

A minute later another door opens and our civil servant and her colleagues walk out and down the stairs.  The stairs are located across the hall behind yet another door.  (This hallway must be where they got the idea for all those Scooby-Doo chase scenes.)

Ok, a quick smoke after lunch before getting back to work.  Fair enough.  At 1:59 she returns.  She unlocks her door and enters her office.  Not a single word to us.  No eye contact.  Nothing.

We awkwardly chuckle to ourselves.  Do we go in?  What do we do?  We waited another minute and then finally worked up the nerve to knock on the door.  Yes, we were granted permission.  The actual conversation was fine.  And it seems to us that she's even lightened up a bit since our first visits.  If only she hadn't said she remembered us.  That only irritated me because of the cold shoulder we got the whole time waiting.  A simple, "I'll be with you in a few minutes" goes a long way.

We asked about my visa status:
  • how that changes once we are married (new one-year visa granted right away), 
  • if there is any more paperwork we'll need to do regarding the visa (of course there is!), 
  • and also whether or not I can begin to look for regular work (indeed I can).  
This eased a lot of the angst we've had lately because my visa runs out in a few months.  It also gives me a lot more leverage when it comes to deciding whether or not I want to continue working for this moron of a boss.  (I still haven't been paid for work I did in April.)  We thanked her for answering our questions and providing us with more paperwork and an opportunity to come back. Then we got up, bowed, and walked out of the room backwards extolling her virtues and throwing rose petals at her feet.  Well, ok, in my mind we exited that way. 


The World Cup rolls on and I am constantly surprised by many of the results.  There have been some impressive performances by the smaller countries while many of the supposed powerhouses are just squeaking by or having to deal with a draw.  Still, we've only just seen the first game by everyone.  We may have a clearer picture by the end of the week after everyone has played a second game.

So far there's really only been one dominating performance.  And of course, it came from die Nationalmanschaft.  Yes, Germany kicked the crap out of Australia who, frankly, probably deserved it after this freak of a team pep rally.  (Seriously? John Travolta? WTF?)  Germany ran roughshod and crushed the Soccerroos 4-0.  It probably could have been uglier than that too.  When they announced an extra three minutes of stoppage time, I begged the TV for mercy.

It was a whale of a performance and it has sent the country into a state of delirium.  Monday was non-stop talk about the game.  Every play was broken down and analyzed.  Again.  And Again.  And Again.  You really couldn't avoid it on TV.  From what I've seen and heard, you'd think Germany has already won the World Cup.  There was even a music video of sorts out the very next day.

Maybe just a tab premature, don't you think?  If you are to go the distance, there's still six games left, people.  And those last four will all have to be won.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not rooting against them.  At least not yet anyway.  I think it'd be awfully exciting to be here if they make it to the finals.  But the cockier everyone gets, the harder it is going to be for me to want to support the team.  But this comes from a guy who grew up rooting for a baseball team who's unofficial motto has been "wait 'til next year" for the past 100 years.  Hey, even the "lowly" US beat Australia 3-1 a few weeks ago.

Speaking of the US team, here's some Daily Show reaction to the previous game and the World Cup in general.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - US Ties England
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Still not down with how the game works?  For those of you looking for some basics, here's a great breakdown sent to me yesterday by a good friend.  Once you've seen this, I'm sure it'll all make a lot more sense to you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Looking for a room or, the Goldilocks conundrum

Don't panic.  What I mean is that we're still looking for a place to celebrate after the wedding.  Anyone have any tips or recommendations?  We've certainly found some interesting places to celebrate but we keep running into the same problem.  Our party is not going to be all that big.  We figure somewhere in the range of 35-40 people.  Every place we've seen so far is too big or too small. Most places seem set up for 100 people.  And the small places seem like they fit about 25 people. 

Did you know you can rent a banquet hall in the Eigelstein Torburg?  That was the first place we checked out.   I think it is a situation where the idea of it is much better than the reality.  We're always going out to eat or drink in the neighborhood nearby.  So it'd be a nice way of showing off our adopted neighborhood.  Plus, for those coming from overseas, it would be pretty cool to celebrate inside a building like that.  The size of the room was not so bad.  But there's quite a bit of stairs involved leaving no real access to outside for smokers or anyone who just needs some fresh air.  The main floor is also in pretty rough shape.  I still wish it could be here, but it just isn't very practical.

We also considered looking at the Severinstorburg.  It certainly seems a bit more polished and professional just based on the website.  But it is also quite a bit more money and probably much too large for our group. Plus it is nowhere near where any of us would be coming from or going to.  We may still look this week just to get another opinion, but I think we've already decided against it. 

So far, the strongest candidate is the Kölner Seilbahn.  It is an unusual idea to be sure.  They have a small event room they rent for parties just behind the ticket office.  The only problem is the room seems a little too tight.  It is just 45 square meters. If the weather is nice, however, we can all spill outside on the patio.  Plus, at least for the first few hours of the party, the Seilbahn will still be operating and guests can go for free(?) rides.  (Here's my first encounter with the Seilbahn.)

We're not done looking yet.  But I think we need to find something pretty soon.  Time seems to be running out.  Less than a month now until the big day.  (Yipe!)

By the way, how do you like the new look?  Just last week I was driving myself crazy trying to tinker with the look of the site.  Over the weekend it seems Blogger rolled out a new design-your-own feature.  I can't believe this didn't exist long before.  It was long overdue.  I'm not totally sold on the background image, but it'll suffice for now.  Overall I think it is way better than the old templates they had available.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ein Punkt ist ein Punkt

Luck or skill?  I'll let you decide.   Either way, both England and the US escaped defeat and the group is still up for grabs.  Maybe Green makes that save the next 100 times.  This time he didn't.  In my opinion he didn't "give it away" as I'm sure most will suggest.  He just didn't save it.  Is it his fault?  The coach's fault for playing him?  It doesn't really matter at this point.  This is why you play the games. The goal counts and the game ended in a draw. 

There were some early signs of nervousness, but the US was able to play some defense reminiscent of last summer.  There were great plays on both sides and I think both teams might be happy with the draw, though they'd say otherwise.  It seemed to me (but I'm hardly a professional expert) that the US missed some big opportunities and also misplayed quite a lot of passes.  I think there is definitely room for improvement.  As for England?  Well, I guess they are just warming up too.  To be sure, I'm glad the US played them in the first game and not the third.

I say a point is a point and the main thing is England doesn't have 3 points.

We ended up at Joe Champs (still a cringe-worthy name for an "American" style bar).  The place was packed and I was really impressed.  The US fans outnumbered the English fans, but there was still quite a bit of raucous debate.  When the game ended I really wanted to lead the crowd in a bit of "Over There," but then decided that might not be a wise decision given where I was.  Then again, I'm sure no one in the place would even know what I was signing.  Even any Americans that might have been there. 

I teach class next Friday until 3:30.  The next US game kicks off that afternoon at 4.  No idea how I'm going to make it in time.  Fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's so on

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
World Cup 2010: Into Africa - Two Teams, One Cup
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

USA vs England

The Stars and Stripes vs the Three Lions

The team that pantsed the other once in 1950 vs the team that has done it nearly every other occasion

Personally, I don't think the US has anything to lose.  (Well, aside from the game and a few points in the group standing....)  Any smart person would bet on England.  Worldwide and here in Germany there's pretty much zero expectations for the US to win this game.  And there's still two more games to play after this one.  But a shocking upset would certainly trigger a national disaster in England,  much like Rooney's nightmare scenario in the Nike commercial.

Here's the commercial, although I advise reading this article first which breaks down all the hyper editing and explains the scenarios for those not in the know.  Truly one of the coolest commercials to appear this year.  Look for the cameo appearance by a few US players.

Here's a couple of interesting predictions.  One is a rather sarcastic look at forecasting the US's chances.  I quite agree with his Rooney strategy.  The other features multiple predictions for the US team's overall performance in the tournament by different writers.  It seems like 80% of these people pick the same fate: US is knocked out by Germany.  *Sigh*  Here's two final previews of the game.

It is less than 10 hours til kickoff.  Hopefully I can contain myself.  And not get my ass kicked at some Irish pub later.

Prediction time.  My heart says US wins 2-1.  My brain says otherwise.  England puts an end to my enthusiasm with a 3-1 victory.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bigger than Big

If you don't know what begins this weekend, I'm going to guess you're living in the US.  Way to go hometown news channel!  No doubt the rest of you realize that Friday is the beginning of the 2010 World Cup.  Whether you're a fan or not, you have no choice but to know this fact.  It is everywhere.

I'm willing to give a pass to those of you in Chicago only until the Blackhawks wrap things up later tonight in Philly. 

Combine all the excitement, hype and excessive commercialization of the Super Bowl and March Madness.  Add to that the patriotism that seems to surface every four years with the Olympics (I'm thinking US Men's hockey).  Mix that all together and apply it to the rest of the world and you've got a pretty good idea of what the World Cup is like.   Don't believe me?  Heck, they even know about this in galaxies far, far away.

Star Wars™ Cantina 2010 / adidas Originals from Dominic Prevost on Vimeo.

I've been living here for almost a full year.  During this time I've only seen German flags flying at official state or city buildings.  Very rarely do you see them privately displayed, public holidays or not.  Now they are everywhere.  Hanging from windows, flying by on passing cars and, of course, flagrantly used in every other advertisement.  Of course I've also seen plenty of other nationalities represented.  Our neighbors across the way are flying les couleurs alongside the die Bundesflagge

It makes me wish we bought a larger US flag before we left.  I don't think the dinky little 18" flag we bought will suffice here.  Nevertheless, I will do my best to represent.  When we were in the States, one of my goals was to find a US team t-shirt.  I guess I got caught up in the moment.  Not only did I buy a t-shirt, I also bought the scarf, a pair of socks, and yes, a glittery Uncle Sam hat.  (The later in tribute to Apollo Creed.)  Ridiculous? You bet.  But if there's one thing we Americans excel in, it's over the top displays of patriotism.

Rest assured I'll do my best not to let any of you down.  Now if only I had James Brown to lead me in to each pub...

After the previous World Cup, I have huge reservations about this year's team.   I think their offense is very underrated.  The defense, however, is more than a bit shakey outside of goalie.  The soon-to-be brother-in-law has questioned my purchases.  "They're only going to be worn three times," he said, in reference to the minimum three games played by each team.  I'm hoping at least five if not six times.  The fifth time would most likely mean the game following a US victory over Germany.  (I'm assuming the US finishes second in their group to England and Germany finishes first in their group. That would mean the two teams will face each other in the first game of the knockout round.)

But that's looking a little too far ahead.  First up on Saturday is England.  Outside of Brazil or Spain, I don't think you could ask for a harder opening matchup.  I know the US is no longer flying under the radar after beating Spain last year.  But I still think there are a lot of lowered expectations for this team that may catch some of the big boys by surprise.  I'm also hoping Rooney will pop off once again and get kicked out, leading to total disarray for the Three Lions.  If not, I fear the US might be in for a bit of a schooling.  Here's a preview of the Yanks as well as an overall preview of Group C.  And here's a clip from a previous time, when the two sides actually worked together.  (I can't believe I just made my second Sylvester Stallone reference in one post.)

Looking for actual news and scores from the tournament?  I've added a World Cup score and a US Team news widget on the right side below the news.  Unfortunately, the game times listed are EST I believe. 

I'm also looking for tips from you.  Where the hell do I watch the game on Saturday?  I only know of one "American" sports bar in town, but I'm hoping some of you might have better recommendations.  This town certainly has no shortage of "Irish" pubs, but I wouldn't be surprised to find those transformed into English pubs this weekend.  Surely I'm not the only American going out to watch this first game.

Where are you from?  Which team are you supporting?  Have any recommendations about a place to see the games at?  Do us all a favor and leave a comment below. And don't worry, it's all anonymous.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

the longest day

Just a few more hours and we're on our way back to the airport.  These days are always tough even before the jet lag.  I've never been good at saying goodbye.  I doubt it will be any easier this time given the circumstances.  This was a really good visit.  We were fortunate enough to have exceptionally good weather this time.  Just about all of our goals were accomplished, although we only managed to get deep dish pizza just one time.  Still, there was hardly a family member, friend or restaurant that we didn't get to visit.  I also managed to buy some obnoxious US Soccer/Football swag to parade around in during the World Cup next month.  (Look out, England.)  The next month and a half leading up to the wedding is going to be really hectic.  Other than the date at city hall, we've hardly got anything else planned.  Hopefully we can knock that out in the next week.  Anyway, I'd better go finish my packing.  Thanks to my wonderful family and friends that took the time to hang out during this trip.  That's always the best part of these visits.