Friday, July 23, 2010

The 2010 FIFA World Cup

Vuvuzelas! Hot soccer players! Unbelievable passes, saves and goals! It is a beautiful game!
Even with all those bad calls.

I didn't recognize the soccer's beauty until I had the chance to see the creators of the beautiful game in action. When D and I traveled to Brazil to visit our good friends Darlene and Tarso in 2006, we watched the city finals at Maracana between Botafogo and Madureira. Talk about an incredible soccer experience. Even though the teams would be the US equivalent to minor league baseball, throngs of chanting fanatics clogged the streets and horses herded us into the stadium. Once inside, fireworks exploded from the crowd and chants of Botafogo echoed from our section. I was sold on soccer.

The 2006 World Cup? I can't even remember who won or where it was played. All I remember is watching Zinedine Zidane's headbutt. Maybe this year's World Cup will fade away too, but I truly enjoyed getting caught up in the vuvuzelas buzz.

First, I trotted alongside the US Soccer Team bandwagon for a couple of games. I guess getting up at 6:00 am and heading to a bar to watch a soccer match will make me do crazy things. I had lost all hope and then that Landon Donovan, he finished! Finally! At least we advanced out of pool play. But I am afraid I'm still an American doubter, as unpatriotic as that is. I just don't think the US men's soccer team will ever get really good until we win big internationally and I just don't think we will ever be good enough to do that. Who knows, maybe someday we'll get lucky. Again.

But once the US was out, (that Ghana team sure made us look slow and lumbering) and I arrived in Paris, I saw the game the way much of the world does. Seriously, it doesn't get much more beautiful than this Paris viewing venue at the Trocadero in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Oh, and then there's the Spanish team.

It is a beautiful game. See you in Rio in 2014!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wimbledon 2010

My first memory of the All England Club was in 1980. I was six and the whole family was watching Bjorn Borg v. John McEnroe in the tv room. I was enthralled and cheered one point quite loudly until the chair umpire insisted, "Quiet, please." I settled down, embarrassed, because I was the gauche American in the midst of this proper English's championship.

The 2010 Championships at Wimbledon saw tennis' longest match, Her Majesty, the Queen's first visit since 1977, and singles titles won by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

On day 10 of the tournament, I had the opportunity to visit and as I made my way on the tube I hoped I'd be able to get in. Wimbledon has a queue that some sit in for days in order to get tickets to a match, or a grounds ticket to access the outer courts and Henman Hill. But on a day when the ladies semis were to be played on Centre Court, there was no one in the queue and I was able to walk right in and buy a Court 1 ticket.

There I was, at Wimbledon, with it's grass courts and wooden net standards, chalk lines and all-white dress code. I walked past Court 18 where the marathon match had just been played. I toured Henman Hill and sampled the strawberries and cream everyone ate and the Pimms everyone sipped.

On Court 8 I caught a young American in her girl's singles match. Sloane Stephens was late and I was able to take in just how many people crowd a court at Wimbledon: 6 ball boys/girls, 7 line judges and one chair umpire. Plus, on the outer courts, the scoreboards are turned by hand, so two scoreboard keepers, one on each end of the court. Stephens hit hard, exhibited a bit of a temper and had several opportunities to win but ended up losing in three sets to Kristyna Pliskova 4-6, 6-1, 9-7.

I spent the rest of my day watching a 5 set men's doubles match (Melzer/Petzschner defeated Moodie/Norman 7-6(3) 6-3 3-6 5-7 6-3) and then strolled across the grounds, catching scores from Centre Court, and snippets of junior's matches. Throughout the day, either in the stands at Court 1 or standing alongside one of the outer courts, and the chair umpires demanded just as they had thirty years ago, "Quiet please."