Tag Archives: America

Lalas on Americans

For fans, yesterday’s US victory over the plucky Algerians to qualify for World Cup outrounds was tremendously emotional. Many pundits have discussed the different factors at work in American soccer, including the different kinds of athleticism and attitude that have sustained American soccer on the world stage. Here is a good thought on the subject from today’s NYT:

Midway through the second half, while watching Howard rush the ball toward his mates, I thought about something Alexi Lalas told me more than a decade ago when he was playing for Calcio Padova in the Italian Serie A. Some players on that weak team would give up if they fell a goal behind on the road, Lalas said, but American athletes would never give up.

It was an interesting point of view, and I was reminded of it again on Wednesday when Tim Howard sent the ball downfield, and a whole track team of runners sprinted after it for the goal that did, at least for three days, change everything.

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Racism, juries, and justice denied

From the Equal Justice Initiative:

The staff of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has looked closely at jury selection procedures in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. We uncovered shocking evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection in every state. We identified counties where prosecutors have excluded nearly 80% of African Americans qualified for jury service. We discovered majority-black counties where capital defendants nonetheless were tried by all-white juries. We found evidence that some prosecutors employed by state and local governments actually have been trained to exclude people on the basis of race and instructed on how to conceal their racial bias. In many cases, people of color not only have been illegally excluded but also denigrated and insulted with pretextual reasons intended to conceal racial bias. African Americans have been excluded because they appeared to have “low intelligence”; wore eyeglasses; were single, married, or separated; or were too old for jury service at age 43 or too young at 28. They have been barred for having relatives who attended historically black colleges; for the way they walk; for chewing gum; and, frequently, for living in predominantly black neighborhoods. These “race-neutral” explanations and the tolerance of racial bias by court officials has made jury selection for people of color a hazardous venture, where the sting of exclusion often is accompanied by painful insults and injurious commentary.

This is worthwhile scholarship. Why hasn’t this happened before?

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World Cup Watch: Why are American goalkeepers superior to the Europeans?

From the NYT:

In England, American goalkeepers have become as reliable as tea time. The theories for this are plentiful and speculative: Americans grow up playing sports that require use of the hands. The population of 300 million is bound to produce a high number of terrific athletes. The 6-foot-3 Howard, for instance, was a formidable basketball player at North Brunswick High School in New Jersey.

Bob Bradley, the United States coach, does not subscribe to the good-hands theory. He believes more in the ancestry of role models. In this view, Gianluigi Buffon’s impenetrability as Italy won the 2006 World Cup can be directly traced to the magnificence of Dino Zoff, who captained Italy’s 1982 World Cup-winning team at 40.

….

Hahnemann said he thought the goalie position was more prized in North America than it was in England, mentioning both soccer and hockey.

“After an N.H.L. game, what does everyone do? Skate over to the keeper,” Hahnemann said. “That sort of respect, they don’t really have over in England. For donkey’s years, they’ve always stuck the worst player in goal. No one wanted to play back there. Part of the reason is, the press is so ruthless with us. Anything happens, and they blame the keepers.”

The situation in England is changing, Hahnemann said, though he thinks Americans still hold a cultural advantage — comfort with athletic individualism. He speaks of goalkeepers and field players as “us and them.”

Hahnemann said: “There’s only one of you. You can’t do it if you want to be like everybody else. We enjoy being a little different. As Americans, we don’t mind that, so we strive as goalkeepers.”

The cultural argument strikes me as the most compelling, though not exclusively. If you’re a keeper in England, especially in the lower leagues, it really is the least glamorous position. It suggests many good goalkeepers are undervalued by a large sector of the market, which means many high status offensive players are overvalued. The implications for teams looking to move up in the rankings are obvious.

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Tom Wolfe on Mark Twain

In the NYT:

Twain outdid them all with a Victorian palace whose many turrets were over the top, even for the Gilded Age. Outside, a coachman and a footman stood at the ready. The palace’s interior, with its posh toff’s furnishings and six retainers, was even more extravagant. Twain bought a hellishly expensive bed from a Venetian palace, featuring a headboard carved into a bas-relief of cupids, nymphs and seraphs, the six-wing angels who guard God’s throne. He claimed he found it so sublime he had put the pillows down at the foot of the bed and slept backward so that this heavenly vision of worldly success would be the first thing he saw every day when he awoke.

Life among the Nook Farmers was a ceaseless round of dinners and entertainment for one another — and for every celebrity who came to town, from William Dean Howells to Henry Morton Stanley of “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” fame. The money, not to mention the time, his palace cost him, eventually drove Twain into bankruptcy in 1891, just as another folly, Abbotsford House, had sunk Sir Walter Scott in the early part of the century.

But just think of it — 20 years! For 20 years, Mark Twain had actually lived, in the flesh, as that heroic figure every American writer, except one (no use igniting angry letters to the editor), dreams of being: Big Spender from the East.

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Ezra Pound on Robert Frost

From The Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, Robert Frost (Two Reviews):

There is another personality in the realm of verse, another American, found, as usual, on this side of the water, by an English publisher long known as a lover of good letters. David Nutt publishes at his own expense A Boy’s Will, by Robert Frost, the latter having been long scorned by ‘great American editors’. It is the old story…

…I remember that I was once canoeing and thirsty and I put in to a shanty for water and found a man there who had no water and gave me cold coffee instead. And he didn’t understand it, he was from a minor city and he ‘just set there watchin’ the river’ and didn’t ‘seem to want to go back’ and he didn’t much care for anything else. And so I presume he entered into Ananda. And I remember Joseph Campbell telling me of meeting a man on a desolate waste of bogs, and he said to him. ‘It’s rather dull here,’ and the man said, ‘Faith, ye can sit on a middan and dream stars.’

And that is the essence of folk poetry with distinction between America and Ireland. And Frost’s book reminded me of these things.

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