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Posts Tagged ‘Soccer’

Welcome. Here, lovingly crafted for your enjoyment (or dismissal), I present my blue mood towards my favorite sports teams.

This also is a tell-tale sign that the end of 2011 is nigh, and I could be writing a bunch of end-of-year reviews. Or something. May be time for you to go on vacation. I am.

2011 was a blue year. Very blue indeed for Seattle sports. Blue is the prominent color of many Seattle sports teams, but that is not the blue I refer to. I mean blue as is melancholy. Blue as in sing the blues. Blue as in break out a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and curl up in front of reruns of Hill Street Blues. Get your shot glasses ready.

Seattle Mariners (ML B – baseball)

The Mariners are hard to root for. They can’t score runs. They trade all their good pitchers for hitters that never produce. They do nothing. It’s depressing. Ichiro’s numbers declined. King Felix didn’t match his Cy Young season of 2010. We traded away Doug Fister right when he was pitching well. You can’t finish much worse than 67-95. And no good prospects for next year.

Success Indicator: 2/10. Whiskey shots: 4

Seattle Seahawks (NFL – football)

After improbably winning their division last season (with a NFL history worst 7-9 record), and then miraculously beating the Saints in the playoffs (only to lose to the Bears), the Seahawks looked like they were back in the business of sucking for 2011. They started 2-6. They lost to Cleveland 6-3. Enough said. Yet, somehow they seem to have poured spinach on their Wheaties, because they are kicking butt, winning five of their last six games. At 7-7, they have a very small chance at the playoffs. But small is better than zero, so let’s see if they can pull off another miracle in their final two games.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 3 (5 if they don’t make they playoffs)

University of Washington Huskies (College football)

The Dawgs started strong at 5-1. Then they started playing good teams. And they got crushed three out of four games. Then they lost to Oregon St. (WTF?) and it looked like the wheels had fallen off. To just salvage the season, they had to whip the Cougars in the Apple Cup. They finished with a 7-5 record, good enough to get a bid to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas against #15 ranked Baylor. Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s QB, won the Heisman Trophy, so it should add a bit of heightened excitement to the game on December 29. But they should have been better.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 6 (One for every loss, and two for losing to OSU)

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS – soccer)

The Sounders had their best season ever. That’s why it’s also the worst. Expectations were high. But not fulfilled. They finished 18-7-9 (63 points), 2nd best in the league. Yet they lost again in the first round of the playoffs. Three years in a row. Erg! There was a silver lining. They won the US Open Cup tournament for a 3rd straight time, tying a record for most consecutive times a team has done this and the first MLS team to do it. They also played extremely well in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions league tournament (24 of the top club teams in North America, Central America and Caribbean) and have a spot in the knock-out stage that starts next April.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 5 (would have been 6, but for the secondary tourneys)

 

Other teams I follow:

Washington Nationals (MLB – baseball)

The Nationals had the 2nd best season since they’ve moved to Washington, D.C. (80-81). I managed to attend 10 games (two doubleheaders) while eating lots of nachos and Shake Shack burgers. Teddy Roosevelt continued to lose in epic ways in the 4th inning President’s race.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 1 (for Teddy)

University of Washington Huskies (College basketball – men’s and women’s)

The men’s team was solid (24-11) and won the Pac-10 Tournament Championship for the 2nd straight year. They beat Georgia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament but then lost a close one to North Carolina.

The women’s team (11-17) continued to suck.

Success Indicator: 7/10

Chelsea Blues (English Premier League – soccer)

The 2010-2011 Chelsea team (71 points) was up and down all year. And finally they were too far behind Manchester United and finished in 2nd place 9 points clear of 1st.

Success Indicator: 7/10. Whiskey shots: 2 (for letting Man U win)

Seattle Storm (WNBA – women’s basketball)

Yep, they still play professional women’s basketball. Seattle finished 21-13 and got bounced from the playoffs in the first round. Blah.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 0 (no reason to waste any here)

Washington Capitals (NHL – hockey)

The Capitals continue to be an enigma. In 2010-2011 they were again the best team in the Eastern Conference (107 points). They beat the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning four games to zero. Another season wasted.

Success Indicator: 6/10. Whiskey shots: 4 (one for every loss to Tampa Bay)

DC United (MLS – soccer)

DC United played better this year, finishing 9-13-12 (39 points). But they failed to make the playoffs despite a weak Eastern Conference.

Success Indicator: 4/10. Whiskey shots: 0 (Can’t. Drink. Any. More.)

University of Washington Huskies (Capital Alumni Network – co-ed flag football)

Year two of DC Dawgs’ (UW Alumni) participation in flag football went better. We finished 4-6 (playoff seed #34 out of 58 total schools). Our division was stacked with a few of the best schools in the league so in a different division, we would have done even better. We played #31 Cornell in the playoffs, but lost a close game 20-12. They stopped us on the goal line at the end of the game. Also, we were shorthanded as many of our players were in NYC for a UW vs. Duke basketball game. There’s always next year…

Peace and may the sports be with you.

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Welcome to, what has apparently become, my annual wrap-up on my favorite sports teams. I am a victim of routine, so expect to be liberally doused with many end of year lists over the next few weeks.

2010 can be categorized as ‘another’ year for Seattle sports. No riot-in-the-streets championships (although one oh-ok-here’s-a-high-five championship). No plane crashes in the Cascades where the survivors subsisted on the ‘hide of the game ball’. No Lebron James style shenanigans (although one team in particular had its share of drama). There were a few heart-stopping and heart-breaking moments, but nothing that Seattle hasn’t become quite used to by now. 

In other words, just another year.

Seattle Mariners (ML B – baseball)

To say that the M’s were terrible this year (with a woeful 61-101 record), would do the word ‘terrible’ a disservice. The M’s had lofty and immediate expectations for success in 2010. They were coming off of an 85 win campaign in 2009, and acquired the brilliant Cliff Lee in the offseason (who ended up pitching for the World Series losers, Texas) and added a couple of solid hitters. Then the wheels fell off. And they sunk into a sinkhole so deep, I still don’t think they can see the way out. Brutal. Drama. I don’t even want to talk about it. Only two highlights to mention, and they were both brilliant. First, Ichiro hit 200+ hits in his 10th consecutive season, breaking the Major League record. Dude is going to the Hall of Fame. Second, Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award despite only winning 13 games. He was the best pitcher in baseball this year and won the award despite everything his team did to prevent it, like not scoring any runs during his starts. Take that New York.

Success Indicator: 0/10 for the M’s as a team. 10/10 for Ichiro and Felix Hernandez

Seattle Seahawks (NFL – football)

After two dismal seasons, the Seahawks are again in contention to win the NFC West division and a ticket to the playoffs. Under their new coach, Pete Carroll (from USC), they have become more competitive overall, but still have played some head-scratching games (explain losing two consecutive games by a combined 10-74 score?!?). At 6-6 (with four games to play), they are not a good team, but they just might be good enough for the bad NFC West. They play their bitter rivals, the St. Louis Rams (6-6), the last game of the season on January 2. Expect that game to decide the division champion. Expect elation or heart-break. I choose elation!

Success Indicator: 6/10 (I’d up it to 7 if they make the playoffs)

University of Washington Huskies (College football)

The Dawgs are going bowling!! After 8 seasons without a bowl game, the Huskies finished with a 6-6 record, winning their last three in convincing fashion, to qualify for a bowl game. They will play Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. This is an unfortunate re-match since Nebraska crushed the Huskies early in the season. There were multiple heart-stopping, last second victories for the Huskies and after all the stress they put us through, we are finally vindicated with a bowl appearance. Jake Locker, the QB, passed up an opportunity to play in the NFL last year to give the Huskies one final chance to do something good. And it paid off.

Success Indicator: 8/10

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS – soccer)

The Sounders started the year with high hopes, but didn’t perform well out of the gates. They pulled themselves together and finished strong with a 14-10-6 record (48 points), good enough for a 6th seed in the playoffs. Sadly, they lost in the first round. They also participated in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament (this hemisphere’s equivalent to the European Champions League) with other North and Central American and Caribbean countries, but fared poorly in the group stage, only winning one game (1-5, 3 points). The bright spot for the Sounders was winning their second consecutive US Open Cup championship (a domestic tournament for all levels of professional soccer). Go Sounders!

Success Indicator: 8/10

 

Other teams I follow:

University of Washington Huskies (College basketball – men’s and women’s)

The men’s team (26-10) was the best of the Pac-10. They won the conference championship and went into the NCAA Tournament with high expectations. Two victories later, they were in the Sweet Sixteen. But alas, they lost to West Virginia, 69-56.

The women’s team (13-18) was not good.

Success Indicator: 8/10

Chelsea Blues (English Premier League – soccer).

Chelsea (86 points) managed to break Manchester United’s three-year strangle-hold on the EPL championship in the 2009-2010 season. Finishing just a mere 1 point clear of the damn United, they are rightfully the new champions! They have started strong again for 2010-2011.

Success Indicator: 10/10

Seattle Storm (WNBA – women’s basketball)

The WNBA is a league few people care about. It struggles with attendance and it seems like one team folds every other year. Despite that, the Storm were by far and away the best team this year. They finished with a 28-6 record and basically could not be stopped and easily won their 2nd championship (the 1st was in 2004). High five!

Success Indicator: 10/10

Washington Capitals (NHL – hockey)

I’ve never been a huge NHL fan since Seattle didn’t have a team, but I can adopt the Capitals. The Caps were the best team in the 2009-2010 regular season (121 points) but inexplicably lost in the first round of the playoffs to Montreal. WTF? Another huge build-up of high expectations, only to be dashed in traumatic fashion.

Success Indicator: 7/10

DC United (MLS – soccer)

They sucked. The worst season in franchise history at 6-20-4 (21 points).

Success Indicator: 2/10

University of Washington Huskies (Capital Alumni Network – co-ed flag football)

I have started playing flag football this year with the UW Alumni in DC. (And as fate would have it, I ended up being the ‘coach’…hmmm). This was the Huskies expansion season (1-9)  into the Capital Alumni Network (CAN) league. With 51 other schools playing flag football, we didn’t expect to win right away. And we didn’t. All teams qualify for the playoffs – we put up a strong effort against Delaware but fell in the end. It’s on for next year!

Peace and may the sports be with you.

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(Originally sent via email January 2, 2008)

I trust you had a fantastic year and are just about ready to wrestle this new year, 2008, into submission. I simply ask that you keep your New Year’s resolutions child-friendly. Forget it, no one ever listens anyway.

Once again, I give you exactly what you didn’t want, another biased, self-absorbed Christmas Letter (albeit now after the fact). You can run, you can hide, but why bother? Like a scab, you just have to pick at it. Since you probably have a ridiculously short attention span and more interesting things to do, I have used bold letters and words a 5th grader can follow (no research went into this claim). So here it is, a graphic, untamed sampling of my experience that was the year 2007. No minors allowed.

Butterfly Farm (Georgetown, Malaysia)
Hot and steamy… this is not the opening of a romance novel, it is simply the environment butterflies like to pupate, grow and burst forth from their cocoons. They seem to be quite happy flitting about their flower gardens, babbling brooks and koi ponds, that is until a net flashes from below and they find themselves pinned behind a framed pane of glass in your plastic shopping bag. You just had to ruin it, didn’t you? A writhing pit of large, obsidian scorpions stabbing each other with mammoth stingers is also a good way to enjoy the wonders of nature.

Northern Virginia Wineries (USA)
On two occasions I spent the day touring wineries and quaffing the various offerings. My pretentious wine awards go to:

  • Best winery name: Naked Mountain
  • Best hot tub wine: Moonrise (from Gadino Cellars)
  • Best use of fake guns and fake beards: Civil War Re-enactment (at Gray Ghost winery)
  • Best T-shirt slogan: Drink Naked (from Naked Mountain)
  • Best wine: Mediterranean Cellars’ Sweet Lucia
  • Best documentary: My thrilling, timeless expose of an inchworm’s quest for the meaning of life (42)
  • Best view: Rolling farmlands – everywhere
  • Best Sommelier: Me

Top Songs
The best songs I heard this year…..drum roll please…….. “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillet, “Starts With One” by Shiny Toy Guns, “Time” by Chantal Kreviazuk, “LDN” by Lily Allen, “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles, “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy, and “Champagne From a Straw” by Andrea Corr. If you haven’t heard any of these songs, hmmmmmm – why do I even bother

Cliffs of Bandiagara (Mali)
Intertwined within a dusty, heat drenched cliff face, village ruins (former home of the Dogon people) overlook a tree-scattered landscape that almost touches the Sahara Desert. Climbing up and around narrow paths, ladders, random paintings and dark rooms passing off as homes, you finally reach the town meeting place, a narrow, cave-like hollow that one cannot stand in – so one cannot jump up in anger during the tumultuous town meetings.  No women allowed. Why didn’t corporate America think of this? (well, the first part)

McMenamins Kennedy School (Portland, Oregon, USA)
McMenamins has a tendency to convert old buildings, theaters, schools, frankly whatever they can get their hands on, into brewpubs serving their various beers on tap. The Kennedy School just so happened to have been an elementary school early in its existence. Now it is a busy brewery, restaurant, theater, hotel, art gallery, pub and whatever else they managed to cram into the former classrooms and locker rooms (yes the showers still work). The only thing that’s missing right now is me.

European Champions League Match (London, England)
In an epic match between football clubs from England and Portugal, titan Chelsea (England) took on FC Porto (Portugal) at Stamford Bridge in London. The stadium was electric with blue and fans hoarsely and enthusiastically singing “Blue Flag” and “Blue is the Colour” as Chelsea handed Porto a devastating 2-1 defeat to advance to the Champions league semi-finals against Liverpool. Me, I just tried not to provoke any hooligans. Go Chelsea

Pet Photo Contest (Capital Hill, Washington, D.C.)
My wiener dog became famous for one month during Capital Hill’s Hill Rag annual Pet Photo Contest. He didn’t win anything, but he was pictured under the “Best of the Rest” section, looking so cute carrying an oversized bone. At least I didn’t dress him up in a stupid costume! Those people should get acquainted with the inside of a padded room. You know who you are.

Facebook.com (website)
Oh man, last year I got on MySpace and this year I added Facebook to my repertoire of extreme time-wasting activities. I’ve “superpoked” so many people that I think the police are looking for me.

Fish (Key Largo, Florida)
In the Florida Keys, I saw fish from all angles, inside and out. First, we went to the Fishhouse, a busy little restaurant that served great Mahi-Mahi stuffed with blue crabmeat. Fried Conch, although it sounds interesting, is just not. Then I did four (scuba) dives off French Reef and played with the inquisitive lobsters and tried to tickle the clown fish (apparently they don’t find that very funny – false advertising!)

Planet Earth (DVD)
This 11-part epic mini-series exhibits our little planet through breathtaking cinematography and stunning, never before captured live action. Wait, do I sound like I’m writing the back of the DVD jacket? Crap, well, if you want to see lions kill an elephant, or crystal caves that are off-limits to preserve their beauty (except the film crew and only for this series), or a desperate polar bear try to kill an elephant seal bull (not a good idea really), or the lovely ecosystem that lives in a pile of bat guano the size of your house, then this is the DVD for you.

U.S. and A
Over the last few years, I’ve been traveling to quite of range of countries. This year, I actually took some time to poke around my home country a bit. So I had a look see of Boston (no tea party but plenty of Harvard talent), Atlanta (home of the Braves), the Florida Keys (where else can you get key lime pie on-a-stick?), St. Petersburg (it’s silly to expect much), New York (those damn Yankees want how much for a ticket?), Seattle (still sore from too much sports and coffee), Portland (good for drowning oneself in beer) and Miami (South Beach!).

Canadian Rocky Mountains (Alberta, Canada)
If only to stroll the picturesque Banff in minus 13 (Celsius) weather, to sip hot cocoa at Banff Springs Hotel or to ski much too fast down the Lake Louise ski slopes. Or to be overwhelmed by the imposing blue mountains as the sun begins its descent. Or to spy a bald eagle at dusk making short work of a frozen deer. Or to…but I digress.

Beaches and Tsunamis (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Outside our hotel, south of Dar es Salaam, was a beach granting uninhibited access to the Indian Ocean. With just a 20-minute boat ride, you could land on a small island and stroll up from the cobalt blue water and small patches of coral and park yourself in the sand. Or you can wait out a tsunami warning after an 8.2 earthquake rocked Indonesia. Sadly, it petered out and didn’t wash us all away. Though harder to write about when dead, it probably makes for a more interesting story.

Top Books
The best books I read this year….”The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, “Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson, “Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning” by George Monbiot, “Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and  “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond.

Spice Farm (Zanzibar)
If you want to know where nutmeg, cinnamon, peppercorn, cocoa beans, lanolin, vanilla and other spices come from, then your next adventure should be a trek through a spice farm. Smell, taste, touch and guess what each plant grows. Then eat all manner of fruit until the juices can’t help but drip from your chin. If you also want some guy to make hats, ties, bags and jewelry out of banana leaves (you heard me), then my work here is done.

Blogging
Yikes, I started a blog this year. Noooooo! Although it is the last thing the world needs, I feel compelled to infect the unsuspecting masses with my unnecessarily lazy prose. Dark, disturbing and beyond redemption, it can only get worse. Read more: (Myspace link removed – A Random Journey is now my blog which you are on…)

Top Movies
Some of the best movies I saw this year, even if they weren’t all released this year were….”Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Lives of Others”, “Superbad”, “American Gangster”, and “No Country for Old Men”.

Wicked (Musical in Baltimore, Maryland, USA)
As you may not know, the Wicked Witch of the West was actually good, just misunderstood. This is a great bit of revisionist history about the classic tale ‘The Wizard of Oz” set to music. Green is good!

Flowering Balconies (Cartagena, Colombia)
Ahh, perchance to stroll aimlessly about the walled city of Cartagena de Indias, spying the spectacular hanging flowers exploding from balconies, plazas, and gardens only to be tempered by the pulsating colors and architecture of the myriad of edifices densely packed into narrow cobblestone streets. (Would you rather I wrote it in Spanish?) You can gaze out onto the Caribbean watching (hoping) for pirate ships to attack the impregnable Castillo de San Felipe. Wishful thinking, once they built that sucker, no one ever took the city or made off with boatloads of booty again.
 
Speaking of booty, this is the end of the Christmas Letter. Get back to whatever you were doing before this unwelcome intrusion. Or do something interesting.
 
Bonus Entry!
For anyone just not sure how to handle 2008 yet, let me give you some options. Baseball games at Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees) and Shea Stadium (New York Mets). They are tearing down the stadiums after the 2008 season and I have to go before it happens. Mark your calendars.

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(Originally sent via email on December 24, 2006)

Merry Christmas! I trust you had a good year.

Some of you may have fallen off my keen radar, as I’ve often been remiss in keeping up with email. Some of you may be new to this venerated list of annual happenings. Either way, fret not my friends! I wish to give your mind a spellbinding journey into the sublime world that I have been traveling this past year (yeah right). Sit back, strap in, secure your valuables, position the barf bag and get ready for the ride.

What have I been doing, eating, smoking in 2006? Read on for the highlights:

Sabang Beach, Philippines
A boat is the only way to get there. The only way to get off the boat is to get wet. The only way to get to the nearby village is to stroll along the beach, avoiding the surf. The only reason to go is to scuba dive, laze about the beach and eat mangos.

Mamma Mia! (Musical in Baltimore, Maryland, USA)
This is an example of how the entire musical oeuvre of ABBA can be transformed into a singing, dancing musical about the Greek Islands, long-lost love, and getting married simply as an excuse to sing ABBA songs. They pulled it off like dancing queens.

Jimmy Buffett (Concert in Virginia, USA)
Parrotheads rejoice! Jimmy’s fans are as crazy and strange as ever. Cars transformed into volcanoes, sandboxes and gigantic umbrellas washed up on the parking lot, shark hats, shark cars, shark stickers, surf boards, tropical shirts, sandals, parrots and pot. Lots and lots of pot (I merely assume – how else can you explain the rest?). And then Jimmy did oblige us a bit of music to sing along to.

Scuba Diving
I took a class, spent money, read the manual, spent money, got some basic gear (fins, mask, snorkel), got in a public pool (after hateful kids made toilet), spent money, passed a written exam and a pool skills test, went to the Cayman Islands, spent money, did nine dives from a boat, completed the skills test, saw an octopus and a dead shark, watched in disbelief as our boat almost got swamped and other people’s expensive stuff vanished into the sea and then got certified as an Advanced Scuba Diver! It only ends because I ran out of money.

Great Ocean Road (Victoria, Australia)
Scenic. Vast. Impressive. Windy. Twelve Apostles. Koalas. Surfboarders. (Actually, do you really need me to continue? The name says everything you need to know.)

Battlestar Galactica (TV show on DVD)
If you’ve never watched this show, you need to take a long hard look at yourself. You may have your reasons not to. Yet your reasons are lame. Trust me. The show is timely and engaging and so much more than the original TV series or anything before it. Stop being lame.

Wine Tour (Virginia, USA)
A group of us did a little jaunt around scenic Virginia to sample vintages from the local wineries. We managed to have tastings at three: Three Foxes Vineyard, Rappahannock Cellars and Oasis Vineyard. The first priority was to drink (in quick, non-stop sips), yet surprisingly you gain a bit of wisdom about wine along the way. Alas, the wine ensures no wisdom is retained. Burp.

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
You already know the city slogan, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, so don’t ask questions.

Bill Bryson (Author)
Simply for the book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” is sufficient reason to list him, but I also had the pleasure to read “In a Sunburned Country” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”. He’s a travel writer mostly, but “A short history” makes learning seem fun! He also can make you laugh out loud.

Kangaroos (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)
These guys look ready to fight! However, I won them over with my charming wit (or because I was their source of some nasty food pellet thingies that they seemed to love. Actually, one wasn’t too impressed so I put some on his belly to which he defiantly fell asleep to.). Also, emus are mean and ugly!

No More Car
Got rid of my car (was crumpled like a used pop can). Now walk and skip and whistle to work.

Sting Ray City (Grand Cayman Island, Cayman Islands)
Stingrays suck! No I mean literally, they suck. They don’t have teeth so they catch their prey with a powerful suction mouth. My arm discovered the joys and wonders of this process. They also like to swim all over you (well, if you tease them with squid chunks, what do you expect?).

Shakira (Concert in Washington, D.C., USA)
I think simply to ogle all the Latin girls in attendance is sufficient reason to list this. Plus she’s hot and her hips don’t lie. And did I mention the Latin girls?

World Cup Fever (Washington, D.C., USA)
Yes, soccer (err…football) is not America’s sport (not even in the top 6 or 7), but it was still fun to go to various bars around DC and catch the action. Some fans are fanatics (that means you Brazil) and some are just plain exuberant (viva Italia). Got myself on a TV newscast by waving tiny Italian and US flags during the USA vs. Ghana game. It sucks that the US did nothing, but the ride was worth it.

Danube River Cruise (Budapest, Hungary)
Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, separated only by the Danube River. Taking a wine and buffet cruise at night is one great way to experience both halves of Budapest. The other ways involve exploring during the day (riding the Funicular!) and cavorting at local clubs until all your compatriots have exhausted themselves drinking and dancing. Hypothetically
speaking.

MySpace.com (website)
I was pressured to get onto MySpace so I did it kicking and screaming. Check out my space and then sign up so you can be my friend. Or not.

Charles Bridge (Prague, Czech Republic)
Prague in general was a fantastic place to walk around, but the Charles Bridge (or ‘Karlùv most’ if you’re Czech) gets a special mention for the view of the Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) (one of the world’s biggest) as it crosses the Vltava River. If that means nothing to you then book a ticket and get off the computer!

Harper’s Ferry (West Virginia, USA)
Located at the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers where the US states of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia are poking each other like siblings is Harper’s Ferry, a historical town of some significance way back in the day when history actually mattered and people cared to know about it. Whew, whatever, I hiked around the town and the surrounding ridges and tried to avoid the idiotic and vocal KKK rally, the police perimeter and equally vocal protesters. Hatred is not pretty. Harper’s Ferry is.

DC Movie Club
A group of us see a movie each month. We take turns choosing which one. Then we pontificate about the movie afterwards in ways that would make most film critics blush. The best selections this year: Thank You For Smoking, Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed.

Guinness Storehouse (Dublin, Ireland)
Aaah, to see how the fine brew of Guinness is made and then wind your way to the top of the storehouse with a 360 view of Dublin while enjoying a complimentary pint. Yes, you should do that.

Television
For the naysayers, television is great. If you fail to watch some of the shows currently on (or on DVD), you have only yourself to blame. Frankly most are better than any movies you care to name. Great right now: The Office (US version), Lost, The Shield, Arrested Development (alas, gone!), 24, Veronica Mars, Entourage, plus I already mentioned Battlestar Galactica. It’s so easy to catch up on DVD, it’s almost a crime to deny yourself.

Beer
Since I did a bit of globetrotting this year (13 countries by my count), why not spend most of that time imbibing beer in all its majestic forms? From the ever tasty Guinness in Dublin to the refreshing Pilser Urquell in Prague to unpronounceable Zywiec in Warsaw to the meatless Wieselburger in Vienna to Carlsberg and Tuborg in Copenhagen to San Miguel in the Philippines to Foster’s in Melbourne to Dreher in Budapest to everything in Berlin to Super  Bock in Lisbon to Singha in Bangkok and finally Stella Artois, Sierra Nevada and Dogfish 90 Minute IPA at Brickskellers right in my own backyard of DC (which has the largest selection of beer in the US), I managed to have it all. Well maybe not all, but there’s always next year.

Ice Bar (Warsaw, Poland)
Everything is made of ice! The tables, the bar, the shot glasses, the chairs, the sculptures. The bartenders are on the warm side though. They keep the temperature at a brisk -8 Celsius and give everyone a stylish Eskimo parka. Complete body shut down happens after 30 minutes of exposure or two strawberry vodka shots.

Chicago, Illinois, USA
In trying to think what specifically I should tell about Chicago, nothing really came to mind. Then I realized it was the whole thing combined, the L train, the neighborhoods, the bars, the deep-dish pizza, the restaurants, the view from the John Hancock Building and Wrigley Field (from the outside). Next time I’ll get on the inside.

Good Books
“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell” by Susanna Clarke and “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire.

iPod (Music)
I got myself a 60GB, video iPod then uploaded all my 350 + CDs to it. Then I scoured iTunes for even more music! Then I listened to it all until my ears bled. I spent more time doing this then almost any other single activity (except maybe one, which shall remain nameless). The five songs I listened to most: “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson, “Everything I’m Not” by the Veronicas, “Cessie La Pluie” by Anggun, “Caraluna” by Bacilos and “Old Town” by the Corrs. Also download: “Over My Head (Cable Car) by The Fray.

Pena Palace (Sintra, Portugal)
After spending the morning in Cascais, a coastal town, I took a last-minute bus to Sintra. Upon arrival, the tourist info lady warned me not to walk up the hill to the castles (too far), a few cars stopped to see if I needed a ride (or to see if I was crazy), the bus to the top whisked by every 20 minutes yet had I done any of those things this would just end up as another one of countless sightseeing trips. How fantastic to be walking along a winding, uphill country road for 30 minutes with the palaces and mansions of Sintra visible distantly through every gap in the trees, only to come around the corner and have an imposing 9th century Moorish castle looming overhead. All the better for not even knowing it was there until that very moment! Then I hiked the rest of the way up to the strangely yellow, red and blue Pena Palace, the workings of severe human eccentricity. Once it started to rain, I took a different path down to the Old Towne. With a few large trees and eventually a doorway of a church I managed to be only mildly damp and not disappointed.

Alas, the list has come to an end. Maybe you can hold out until next year, but in case you can’t or you don’t have anything better to do, have a peek at some photos.

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None of which I will write about here.

Instead, let’s talk soccer…World Cup style. After 11 days of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, what are some of the high and lowlights?

Highs

It’s good to be the underdog – with a Serbia 1-0 win over Germany, a New Zealand 1-1 tie against Italy, a Switzerland 1-0 win over Spain, an Algeria 0-0 tie against England, and a few more stunning upsets, suddenly the countries no one gave a chance or a crap about are putting on a display. They probably won’t win it all, but they are making this tournament very interesting.

USA – a tie against England (good) and a tie against Slovenia (okay, but a good comeback), the US is poised to advance with a victory over Algeria. Go USA!

Western Hemisphere teams – the 8 countries in the Western Hemisphere are playing at a 9-2-5 pace (with Honduras as the only team to lose so far). There is an excellent chance that 7 of the 8 countries will advance to the knock out stage.

Vuvuzelas – the noise may be obnoxious and persistently annoying,  but good on the fans for being passionate enough about their countries to blow on a ridiculous horn for 90 minutes.

Lows

France meltdown – What the heck? A tie to Uruguay and a loss to Mexico and suddenly players and coaches are quitting? Well, I guess its one less team for the US to have to worry about. Maybe South Africa has a chance to win a game if France doesn’t care.

Referees are a distraction – missed goals, stupid fouls, poor officiating, not explaining calls, it just proves that some of these refs need an ass-kicking.

Flopping – stop! Most of the footballers that are intentionally landing on their butts and faces to solicit sympathy from the refs for a free kick are not good enough actors. Plus everybody has a rewind button, so just play the game and stop pretending.

African teams – the 6 African countries are performing at a lowly 1-7-4 and are just not going to matter at all in the knock-out stage. Only Ghana has a realistic chance to advance. So much for home field advantage.

Viva soccer!

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Last year I shat out a blog about the complete ineptitude of Seattle sports teams (see 2008: The Worst Year Ever). It came out sideways and it hurt.

This year, I’m happy to report, has been a bit rosier. Not brilliant, mind you, but definitely encouraging going into 2010.

Let’s see what happened:

Seattle SuperSonics (NBA – basketball)

errrgg…they are gone to the sorry, pointless city of Oklahoma City. Yes, you heard me. Sorry and pointless. I predict public interest in the team will precipitously drop after about 3-4 years and the NBA will look to move the team somewhere else, with egg all over their face. Bastards.

Do I Care Indicator: 0 out of 10

Seattle Mariners (MLB – baseball)

Finishing with a respectable 85-77 record, the Mariners improved on last year’s dismal season by 24 wins. It wasn’t quite enough to make the playoffs, but it bodes well for next year. 2009 also saw the return of Ken Griffey, Jr., and the Kid brought some serious energy to the clubhouse. And he got into tickle fights with Ichiro. Don’t try that at home, kids. Also, King Felix Hernández had a Cy Young worthy season (19-5, 2.49 ERA), but lost to Zack Greinke (16-8, 2.16 ERA) in the voting. The Mariners do need some more hitting to compliment Ichiro’s standard brilliance, so we shall see how that goes in the off-season.

Success Indicator: 7/10

Seattle Seahawks (NFL – football)

The Seahawks are strange this year. Sometimes they are listless, sometimes they are world beaters. But mostly they are underachievers. So far they’ve only managed a 5-7 record. It’s almost assured a playoff berth is out of the question this year, but they are doing better than the apathetic 4-12 team that didn’t bother to suit up last year. Now if they can only find a good running back and keep Matt Hasselbeck healthy, they might stand a chance.

Success Indicator: 5/10

Seattle Sounders FC (MLS – soccer)

The expansion Sounders FC* made their debut in 2009 and took Major League Soccer and the USA by storm! They did indeed do quite well, finishing with a 12-7-11 record (47 pts). That was good enough for 4th best in the league and a spot in the playoffs. They lost in the first round, but we can forgive them that because during the season they won the US Open Cup championship against DC United. I was there! Winning this domestic tournament also qualifies the Sounders to play in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League tournament with 24 other clubs in North and Central America. Very nice. Finally, the Sounders set MLS attendance records by averaging a stellar 30,897 fans per match in Qwest Field.

Success Indicator: 9/10

University of Washington Huskies (College Football)

Let the Steve Sarkisian years begin! With exciting wins over #3 USC, #19 California and an Arizona team that finished ranked #20, the Huskies played well at times and pulled off a 5-7 record (4-5 Pac-10), a vast improvement over 0-12. They lost a couple heartbreakers (I hate Notre Dame), but they also crushed the hapless Washington State Cougars 30-0 in the Apple Cup. Oh yeah, watch out for next year!

Success Indicator: 7/10

University of Washington Huskies (College Basketball – Men’s and Women’s)

The men’s team went 24-7 (14-4 Pac-10) and won the Pac-10 Conference regular season crown for the first time. They lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament and finished with a #16 ranking in the nation.

The women’s team went 8-22 (3-15 Pac-10) and pretty much sucked.

Success Indicator: 8/10

University of Washington Huskies (College Softball – Women’s)

They won the National Championship, baby! Woo hoo!

Success Indicator: 10/10

A. Better. Year.

*FC refers to Fully Cocked. Or Fans Crying. Or Football Club. I can never remember.

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Proceed a Vigorous Game

Exposed below, we find a larger-than-life missive on the sport of soccer, also known as football by the hostiles, that contains a brilliant, irrefutable argument on why Chelsea (West London) will win the UEFA Champions League tournament, crushing the hopes and dreams of lesser teams like; Liverpool, FC Barcelona, and Manchester United. The argument proceeds thusly:

Because I said so.

It is flawless. It’s brilliant in its simplicity. There is no room to inject counter arguments or rebuttals. Where would you even put them?

Notice the extra emphasis on the word “I”. It appears that this tactic is being used to convey some extra level of significance to this particular word. Ingenious, this.

It’s almost as if the author (me) is calling himself out as having some superior level of knowledge and intellect. I mean really, how can he (I assume it’s a he, since it’s me) be so confident in his bold assertion? It’s likely beyond your ability to comprehend. Confused, you scratch your head, and repeat the immortal mantra aloud for yourself “Chelsea will win, because I say so.”

Yes, that’s the spirit! You’ve got it just right! The infliction. The cadence. The whole thing, just perfect. Try it again. Go ahead.

 “Chelsea will win, because I say so.”

Ha! Brilliant! It’s almost as if the argument is self-perpetuating. It will surely spread like a reckless wildfire or a bad rash just before a first date.

The Quarter-Finals are in two weeks. Start chanting your new-found mantra every day before bed. Soon you will be correct. Chelsea will beat Liverpool. This will be the 5th time in five years that these two clubs have met in the Champions League. Last year, Chelsea knocked Liverpool out, and rightly so. Just as they will do this year.

“Chelsea will beat Liverpool, because I say so.”

April 8, 2009 – Chelsea battles Liverpool at Anfield. Prediction: Draw 1-1

April 14, 2009 – Liverpool travels to Stamford Bridge, where they will be tossed aside by the waving blue flags. Prediction: Chelsea 1-0.

Chelsea advances with a 2-1 aggregate score! Go Blue!

 

http://www.wordle.net/gallery/wrdl/699413/Chelsea_vs._Liverpool

http://www.engrish.com/2008/11/i-know-what-i-want-for-christmas/

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