Thursday, June 26, 2014
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Monday, June 23, 2014
Barcelona: Kasey Keller
Like any good American, I have been glued to the television over the past week, watching the World Cup. It has been amazing to see everything, all over the country, come to a complete halt during the matches, and I’ve enjoyed getting into impassioned arguments with strangers over the relative merits of Croatia and Costa Rica. Or the tactical arguments over whether it is better to play a 4-3-3, or a 4-3-2-1. And whether using a false 9 really ever works.
When you come from a country with as proud and successful a soccer tradition as the United States, it is hard to decide what our greatest World Cup moment was. (Note—I’m focusing here on our men’s team. The women’s tradition, is, if anything, even better.) Was it our third place finish back in 1930? Or the victory over England in 1950, which made Joe Gaetjens a household name? Or was it something more recent, like our victory in 1994 (despite some of the ugliest uniforms ever) over Columbia (thanks, in part, to the tragic own goal from poor Andres Escobar)?
I mean, who could forget our incredible 2002 tournament, where we beat both Portugal and Mexico (of course, by the score of dos a cero, which has become a national chant) and only lost to Germany because of Torsten Frings’ dastardly cheating?
Or maybe it was our magnificent draw with the Italian thugs in 2006, despite ending the game with only 9 players? You could argue that our best moment was topping the group in South Africa in 2010, what with the stirring draw with England, the amazing comeback against Slovenia (and getting cheated by the referee’s awful offside call), and Landon Donovan’s incredible game winner against Algeria, which shook the world?
We’ve also had some big moments away from the World Cup, like beating Mexico at Azteca, or Paul Caligiuri’s game winner over powerful Trinidad and Tobago to clinch a berth in the 1990 World Cup? Or the Snow Game?
And, with all of that incredible history, there may be only one American soccer victory that has become so embedded in the national psyche that it inspired a song. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that I am talking about the 1-0 victory against Brazil at the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Who can forget the legendary Kasey Keller, whose exploits that day in Los Angeles allowed the great Preki’s 65th minute goal to hold up? To this day, Americans remember where they were watching the match, and who they were with. We tell the story of Keller’s 10 saves to our kids, and sing this tribute to Keller, by the Washington D.C. area band Barcelona, whenever American soccer fans gather. (Although as a passionate Gooner, I do have to overlook Keller's tenure with Sp*rs, but country before club, right?)
Hey, look, an American soccer fan can dream, right? (And I'm not discussing last night's draw with Portugal. Because I. Believe. That. We. Will. Win.)
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Stevie Wonder: Another Star
There are songs specifically written with the World Cup in mind and there are others that get co-opted to the purpose. Ricky Martin's La Copa de la Vida comes to mind as one of the more successful: you didnt have to be a football fan to notice the commercial success of the song.
Curiously, it took the US women's team - and Mia Hamm - back in 1996, to light the fire for soccer in the US. Sure ... there were other sparks: Pele and his backers tried hard. Beckham, too. But even today, soccer/football in the US of A - in terms that really matter (salaries, revenue, viewers...) falls pitifully below other more American sports.
There are "official" songs for each World Cup, and then there are other songs that are "un-official".. Whereas Pitbull/Jenifer Lopez's "Ole Ola" and Shakira's "La La La" are considered to be official this year, the BBC has chosen this year to go with Stevie Wonder's "Another Star". Why so?
Folks who edit video are well aware of the effect that a sound track has over the video: even a sloppy visual sequence can turn into decent "film" through the judicious use of appropriate audio, and that appears to have been the Beeb's ... er ... goal. There isn't much in the lyrics to suggest its application to a World Cup theme song (unless you accept the starting "la la la ..." as a tribute to the official Shakira song? Or perhaps the notion that "no other love" is a football fanatic's state of mind? Again, the audio overlaid to the video and the simple fact that this clip provides a history of sorts of the "Cup" are reason enough for me to start us off with this clip on the next 2-week theme in honor of the 2014 World Cup.