Disingenuous hope that NFL football offers

“So, have you thought about what you want to do when you grow up?”
“Yes, I want to be in the NFL”
“Hmmm…ok, do you play football?”

This is a real conversation that happened between a college prep advisor and a high school student in one of the schools we work with. But I wouldn’t rush to call the kid stupid. You see, the only people he has seen like him succeed are in the NFL. Football is YUUUGE in Texas; even high school football (cue the Friday Night Lights opening credits) so naturally if you want a better life, right now, it is only through football. Of course, it doesn’t help that “.03% of high school basketball players will eventually be drafted by an NBA team. Football. 6% of high school seniors will play football in college. 1.7% of senior football players in college will get drafted by a NFL team” [source]. But if people understood odds and probabilities, no one would buy a lottery ticket.

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Farewell Sachin

If you’re a cricket fan of any degree, take 21 minutes out of your busy lives and watch this amazing farewell speech by Sachin Tendulkar. It has to rank among the best there is not only in content but also in sentiment. The man takes time to thank everyone in his family, friends, and colleagues for having helped him get where he is right now. More than his exploits, I think his humility and simplicity is admired by most Indians.

PS. Feed readers may have to step into the browser to see the video.

India – Cricket World Champions 2011

This moment shall not go unblogged. Whatay match it turned out to be after the underwhelming semi-final with Pakistan. After conceding 274 runs and getting down to 31/2 with both Sehwag and Tendulkar back in the pavilion, people had started losing hope of ever winning the World Cup in their lifetime. But fans on Twitter kept the hopes alive and India’s much-vaunted batting lineup finally came good as Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, and most importantly, the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni saw India home safely. MS Dhoni finished the match in grand style by lofting Kulasekara for a huge six to set off celebrations all over India.

It took 28 years but in the end, it was worth the wait. This World Cup compared to the others had been especially exciting with great performances mostly involving Ireland, Bangladesh, and England. Taylor’s blitzkrieg against Pakistan was also a sight to behold but in the end, it was India that remained consistent and won the day. Shabash, India.

Images courtesy Cricinfo:

On the Suarez Handball

[image source]

Luis Suarez will sleep well tonight and he shouldn’t. The best bit of acting today was by Suarez with his “Who me?” expression when the referee showed him the red card for thinking he was playing volleyball at the end of extra time. I believe that this was probably the most flagrantly deliberate handball I ve ever seen.

I agree and disagree with Dave Brockington here: yes, Suarez did cheat and he got caught (he wouldn’t have been sent off otherwise) and yes they should change the rule under those circumstances, the referee should be allowed to consider that a goal. I think that they should go even further: allow the goal, send the man off and give the attacking team a penalty kick. This is the type of behavior that FIFA should want to discourage.

Every time we see someone taking a penalty kick, Mercia always says “Poor goalkeeper!” I always say the pressure is not on the goalkeeper, but on the player(s) taking the penalty(ies). Today’s events have confirmed that for me yet again and I believe that there is absolutely nothing that can persuade me otherwise [source].

An otherwise liberal political blog, Balloon Juice has been hosting brief World Cup tidbits from their guest blogger, Randinho that I prefer to read every day. Admittedly, I’m a FIFA World Cup aficionado more than a football fan since I don’t follow club football much (if Suddenlink offers Fox Soccer Channel, I might be inclined to although ESPN3 is looking good now). This piece of opinion by Randinho perfectly captures my sentiments on the Suarez handball that sent Ghana crashing out of the World Cup.

Sure, Suarez was punished to the extent of the law but the context of his blatant foul meant that apart from missing the next match, his team and country hardly faces any consequences. It is like a cricket umpire giving an LBW and asking the bowler to try again and hit the stumps while the batsman stands aside. Suarez effectively converted a 100% likelihood of a goal into say, 70% likelihood. Given those odds (as long as they are below 100%, they are good), any player would have every reason to swat away sure goals especially for a knockout match in absence of a stricter punishment. I don’t even think you need technology to spot such kind of egregious fouls although I wouldn’t mind an instant replay review.

Without Suarez, Uruguay might lose its next match against Netherlands but in my opinion, they have lost all respect among all football fans. When you see their coach offer excuses like, “The hand of Suarez is the hand of God and the Virgin Mary — that’s how Uruguayans see it”, you know they are clutching at straws and trying desperately to regain lost honor. I was ambivalent about Ghana and Uruguay right up to that moment but now I wish Netherlands, the team I root for, crushes Uruguay just like Germany has been crushing its opponents. However, if Uruguay goes on to win the World Cup, I say FIFA fold away that Fair Play yellow flag that they trot out before every match because it is clearly not working.

Watch FIFA World Cup 2010 Live on your iPhone

ESPN3 and Univision have been doing a great job on live-streaming FIFA World Cup 2010 matches. The streaming quality has been extremely good and rarely have I seen the dreaded “Buffering” message in the middle of an exciting game. Although ESPN3 is available for select Internet providers and all college campuses, Univision is available everywhere although obviously the commentary is in Spanish. If you are at your computer, you’ve no trouble keeping up with the World Cup and I’ve been watching almost all the games. But what do you do when you are not around a TV or a computer?

We have to go to Houston for Ash’s dad’s surgery on one of the semi-finals days. Since the surgery is expected to be routine and non-serious and most of our time will be spent in the waiting room letting her dad convalesce post-surgery. We wouldn’t have bothered if it was one of the group stage matches but a semi-final cannot be missed. Since we are not sure whether the hospital will have a TV or even have WiFi, we searched for an alternative that would let us watch it on my iPhone. And of course, there is an app for that.

OrbLive ($9.99) streams live TV on your iPhone as long as you can see those programs on your computer. It is also available for all Android phones. First, you have to download, install their software, and create an account at MyCast. Once you do, all you have to do is to install the app, login with your details, and keep the OrbLive software running on your PC. ESPN3 can be found under the TV tab and it works great on WiFi, and 3G networks. I haven’t tested it on the Edge network yet but some reviews say that it does. Some reviews on the App Store can be scathing but I have had no problems and generally if AT&T works fine in your area, you should have no problem on 3G. You can adjust the connecting settings if the picture is blurry. You have to remember to keep the computer at home/office on and the desktop software running. Your desktop basically acts like a server relaying content to your phone so along as the connections are reliable, you should have no problems. Considering that this app has not been banned from the app store and relies on legal media streams, you aren’t breaking any law either.

Of course, OrbLive has other uses like accessing the media on your computer including your iTunes library, movies, photos, and documents. Now, I hope that this does not fail at the time when we need it the most. Now even cricket is available on ESPN3 apart from other great content. You don’t have to miss out on any must-watch games if you are away.

The ‘much-awaited’ USA – England Football 2010 World Cup Match

The FIFA World Cup 2010 kicked off today with both encounters in Group A ending in draws. South Africa surprised Mexico by holding them to a 1-1 draw and France and Uruguay played largely defensive football for 90 minutes to stay scoreless. But the real encounter at least in the United States is being hyped up endlessly everywhere. It is the USA – England match.

By some stroke of luck, both teams have landed up in the same group and will meet tomorrow in what some call a ‘grudge match’. I don’t know what grudge they are still holding; surely it can’t be the Boston Tea Party. We plan to go to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the match and I’m sure it will be packed although this town is half-empty this time of the year. Nearly all the bars and clubs in town are showing the live telecast of the World Cup; quite different from four years ago. We’ll definitely be supporting USA and not just because they are the underdogs but also because the US has significantly improved its game and are no longer considered pushovers in international football.

Whether the match lives up to the hypes or will England finally pull itself together for the World Cup stage and wipe the floor with United States, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, we’ll be enjoying the match dressed in navy blue amidst chants of U-S-A U-S-A.

Update: We were surprised to see Buffalo Wild Wings packed with American fans and we could wriggle into the last two seats at the bar. The atmosphere was festive with people dressed with blue and white. Every US attack was cheered and every England foul was booed. You can imagine the pandemonium when the English goalkeeper, Green fumbled the ball and let in the equalizer. Couple of our American colleagues from work had joined us and were equally surprised to see the enthusiasm for a sport that they thought had no support in this Texan town. One of them was watching the game for the first time and had to be filled in with the little details like what’s a yellow card and that it is not ok to touch the ball with your hand deliberately. Overall, it was a great experience and with any sports, it is best enjoyed amongst friends and fans.

Sports and Government Bureaucracy

Why I relate these stories, though, is to give a sense of how hard it was to make it in any Indian sport apart from cricket. Most of those sports are run by the government, and I don’t need to elaborate on the inevitable inefficiencies that result, and the hardships and bureaucracy that young sportspeople have to battle. You always feel that you’re fighting against the system, and whatever you achieve is in spite of it. I cannot stress this enough: To just survive the damn system, to keep playing the sport you love through years of this crap, you have to be made of stern stuff.

[Source: The Man with the Maruti 800]. Amit Varma in his weekly column for Yahoo India narrates his personal experiences on dealing with horrific conditions in order to compete at the state and national level. While I never competed at that level, my brother Aditya had similar experiences when he traveled to the Maharashtra hinterland (Kolhapur or Sangli I forget) for football. Fithly living conditions, inadequate food (brinjal was the staple food), and even more horrible sanitary conditions so much so that we had to unearth some remote acquantance in that town so he could use a decent toilet. Predictably, he never went back for the national selection.

Amit is right in pointing to government-run bureaucracies in sports. You only have to look at the state of hockey and compare it to cricket. However, Amit also points to East European countries in his column for their excellence in chess during the 80s. As we know, those countries weren’t exactly free-market utopias with privately-run sports bodies. Heck, China even today is a completely state-run machinery and manages to give the U.S. a run for its medals in the Olympics. While I don’t condone that model of nurturing sports either, why this disconnect? Why did India have the worst of both worlds?

Nike’s Human Chain

Nike: Human Chain from Duane Baxter on Vimeo.

No one understands sports better than Nike. And perhaps that is why ‘Just Do It’ has to be one of the best slogans for a brand in advertising ever.

Managing Tiger Woods’ Married Life

Ben Crane, a PGA player, has even harsher words. “This is no surprise to anyone who knows Tiger,” Crane tells Life & Style. “He’s a phony and a fake and he can’t retain that squeaky-clean endorsement deal any longer.” Crane also believes Elin may have known about Tiger’s other women. “She’s no fool,” Crane says, adding that perhaps Elin “turned a blind eye because of the money and the kids and the lifestyle he provides.”

PGA golfer Charles Warren agrees that it may have been more than love that attracted Elin to Tiger but that she should definitely leave him in light of what’s happened. “She was very young when Jesper introduced them,” Warren tells Life & Style. “She had stars in her eyes and maybe dollar signs too. But no, she should not stay with him. What kind of message would that send to her sister and mother and all the women out there? That your husband can be a bastard but as long as he makes the deal worthwhile, you’ll stay?”[Source: Golfers Hammer Tiger Woods: ‘A Phony And A Fake’]

Flaming hypocrites. Even if Tiger Woods is a sleaze bag according to his wife, he probably still can wipe the golf course with these guys’ asses. Just because he has cheated on his wife doesn’t make him any less than an awesome golfer. And if Crane is to be believed and Tiger’s wife knew about his affairs then it is even less of an issue. We cannot dictate how any couple chooses to live their married lives; if they are alright with their spouses cheating on them because they get to enjoy a life of luxury, so be it. Do these guys secretly wish they had such an arrangement? And of course, we didn’t know that Mr. Warren the golfer was the unofficial decider on who should stay married in the PGA tour.

Whatever Tiger’s wife saw in Tiger is none of his frikkin’ business and all he should care is how less badly he can get beat on the course when Tiger is playing. If our Presidents and Senators are sending similar messages by continuing to stay married to their spouses after having cheated, how would a golfer doing the same cause any turmoil in the moral fabric of our oh-so-pious-society? I’m sure Sen.Vitter and Sen.Ensign to name just a current few could really use your advice. Mind doling it out to them and see what happens?

Atomic Cities for Olympics 2020

Talk about emotional blackmail :) Hiroshima and Nagasaki are launching a joint bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. To be fair, Hiroshima has hosted the 1994 Asian Games. By the way, Delhi is also mentioned as one of the contenders. Hmmm…let us first not mess up the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Rio for 2016

Rio 2016Rio de Janeiro was selected as the host city for Summer Olympics 2016. Of course, in the United States, the news made more splash not because Rio won but because Chicago lost. What’s so special about yet another American city losing the Olympics bid after the fiasco at Atlanta, you ask? Well, this time President Barack Obama made a last-minute flight to Copenhagen to make a pitch for Chicago. So when Chicago got kicked out in the first round, it was naturally Obama’s fault because after all, Obama is considered a messiah not by his ardent fans but rather by his fiercest critics who expect him to churn out miracles because he speaks of hope. In fact, one IOC member from Kenya even voted for Nairobi after Obama spoke.

After all, why wouldn’t the IOC members vote for Chicago after being hypnotized by the magic of the black president regardless of the fact that the bid process started more than two years before Obama even started running for office. After all, George W. Bush was vilified by everyone after New York City with all its 9/11 memories lost the bid to London in 2005. Katrina wasn’t Bush’s watershed moment, no pun intended, but it was the rejection of the NYC bid. After all, how can a country recover when your Olympic bid is rejected? That’s why India takes part; the pain is simply unbearable and governments are toppled over the decision of 95-odd randomly selected sports officials of the IOC.

But of course, Obama didn’t know the perils of this rejection and was the only head of state who was in Copenhagen for support. King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Hatoyama will not comment and insist they were hiking the Appalachian trail when asked where they were on that day. President Lula Da Silva only teleported to Copenhagen after the decision was announced. He wouldn’t want to stake his political future on such an important decision.

Back in the U.S., Obama’s critics were disappointed that he could not do what Hitler successfully did in 1936. If only the Olympics were held in black-dominated Chicago, a white man could sweep the track races and adorn the walls of uninspired white surburban kids in dorm rooms of Harvard and Princeton. The news channels suddenly discovered the high crime rate of Chicago before told that perhaps Rio has a higher crime rate and of course, seeing Cidade de Deus (City of God) on the weekend helped. But as the obviously obese Bill Bennet on CNN said it best, it is better to see girls in bikinis at Rio than fat men eating in Chicago. He followed it up by stuffing his face in a deep-dish pizza and commenting on healthy eating as the only healthcare reform we should adopt.

In order to silence the cheering in the Weekly Standard offices post-announcement of Chicago’s elimination and to respond to the general glee from conservatives, Barack Obama should immediately resign from the Presidency as atonement for his sins. Forget the economy, healthcare, immigration, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the disappointment of not seeing synchronized dances at the opening ceremony in 2016 with people shouting USA! USA!! is crime enough.

Perfect Prediction

Mike Blowers of the Seattle Mariners makes the perfect prediction [YouTube]. I loved Rachel’s commentary, “accurate to the last detail, he is like Nate Silver”. Nerd!

Rules of Gully Cricket

Love this rule of gully cricket: “Overs are not necessarily six deliveries. Typically, only when a batsmen raises the question of remaining deliveries do overs come to an end” [source: to be revealed later]. More to follow. Name your favorite rules in the comments.

Cricket under attack in Pakistan

The Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked in Lahore injuring 7 players and killing five policemen. Is this the end of international cricket in Pakistan as we know it? Hosting the next World Cup is definitely out; and if it isn’t India should not go to Pakistan even if it is the goddamn final. It definitely puts a big question mark on those who had claimed that we should keep cricket and politics separate. Imagine the furore in India if any Indian players were attacked in Pakistan in the days following the Mumbai terror attack.

Imran Khan who had claimed that cricketers will never be harmed no matter how bad the situation got in Pakistan is eating his words now. The paranoid Australians come off quite wise now. It is time to quit trying all the people-to-people contact with Pakistan because it is clearly not working and Pakistanis have to get their shit together first because right now, it isn’t clear who exactly is running the country. In my opinion, like communism, Pakistan is a failed idea although I don’t know how to fix it.

Really, Kelloggs

Seth Myers on Kelloggs and the Phelps Bong controversy.

Priceless quote – “If your kids argue why can’t they smoke pot and Phelps can’t? The appropriate response is, you can AFTER you win 12 gold medals for your country.”

By the way, some Indian readers might be confused by why smokin a Bengali is such a bad thing. Isn’t Bipasha Basu just that and her sponsors aren’t dumping her?

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