Saturday, April 14, 2007

Notes, or "Jesus. That was bad."

Hello. Been a while, and I apologize duly.

Coming soon, my big NBA thing on the playoffs, the MVP, etc. I figured I should wait until the season's done for that. Also, I'll talk about the terrifying Kevin Garnett situation and how wrong I was about the Timberwolves. Because that's what I want to be about here: accountability. If I get something right, I'll let it stand as such, and if it's wrong, I'll have to take another look at it.

Speaking of accountability, I'm going to write the requisite Don Imus blog. I must. But, and I'm pleading with you here, I promise I have a viewpoint you probably haven't heard anywhere yet. Really.

Now, a couple of endorsements.

- One, for Wikipedia. This seems to be a point of great contention among the learned peoples in this country, and almost no one falls in the middle. I'm coming out in support of it, if for no other reason than the sheer ambition and scope.

When they did a study last year, I was shocked to find out that Wikipedia was not a wide base of information coming from a small group of academics, cocaine addicts and mental patients. It was instead being generated by a huge number of people.

And now it's closing in on 2 million articles, just in English. Two million. It's an encyclopedia that is updated daily, and the variety of things on there... well, just hit the "random article" button some time, and you'll be shocked to find out what's on there.

I just did it, and was taken to a rather detailed account of Nureyev's life. And not Nureyev-as-in-the-Russian-dancer Nureyev. Nureyev the horse, which (who?) earned about $40,000 and sold for about $14 million. Nureyev, the mildly successful horse from the late 80's.

I know now that Nureyev sired at least 135 prizewinning horses, and I'm sure a number of other horses that just lived off dad's bankroll. And when you think about hundreds of children in around 20 years, we can assume Nureyev spent most of his adult life thinking, "Why the hell did they have me running around in circles when I was a kid? This is so much better."

The entry for the American Civil War on wikipedia runs 14,000 words long, and I think the footnotes number more than 80.

Think about it. The entire planet is writing a research paper. If nothing else, it's a nice thought.

Now, what bothers me about the site is the part that tells me to "sign up" with the promise of more security and anonymity. This does not mesh with my accountability policy.

So long as people are allowed to post on wikipedia under nicknames and with secure identities, the site will be in constant need of fixing. The good news is that it seems to happen. People point out inconsistencies, and opinions, and entries tend to get truer, and longer, and better-referenced as time goes on. But there's no need to protect anybody's identity.

Just who would have a valid reason for hiding who they are while making a wikipedia entry? I can only assume it would be someone posting with an agenda, and those kind of entries don't belong on the site. Now, wikipedia's only been around a few years, so we can assume that Nureyev (1971-1998) was not typing his own entry.

But if you consider that the damn horse has hundreds of kids and grandkids out there... at least one or two of them has to have internet access.

The pont is I never thought once about writing my blog under any other name than Mike Mullen. I don't plan to write anything if I don't want my name next to it.

Now, you can either contribute to wikipedia or stay away from it. But what you shouldn't do is try to discredit it.

If there are things that are important to you, if you value the integrity of certain people or things, then protect them by looking them up and helping to research and edit the page. Name, please.

By the way, here's what I would do if I was a college professor in journalism or research of some kind. I would walk into class on the first day, size everybody up, and point at one student.

"He/she is in charge," I'd say. "Your assignment, as a class, is to clean up the content of to the fullest of your abilities. You will keep detailed notes and footnotes, including what the article said prior to and after your edits. I don't have office hours. I'll be back in April. Good luck."

And then I would take a few months and learn to golf.

- Now, a few sports notes and then I'll get out. Today's reason you should like soccer is John Terry/Peter Crouch, which sounds like two reasons, but they've united to become one super-reason.

I'll introduce these players like you don't know them, because you don't.

Terry is a talented and relentless defender who plays professionally in London for Chelsea. The team is in this season's title chase, and dominated the past two English seasons, mostly because of its defense. And since Terry is the heart of that defense, and England is the best league in the world, you can make the argument that he's the best defender in the world, and plenty of people do. And, though he looks dapper and seems friendly and talks with an English accent, he's got a bad temper, and he'll stare down anybody on the field, and his teammates' affection for him borders on admiration. (Translation: he's Brian Urlacher.)

Crouch is... Crouch is Yao Ming, plain and simple. A big, giant (6-7) skinny creature, the Liverpool forward is not outrunning anybody, but outsmarting them and overmatching them with well-timed quickness and of course size. He's the easiest target in soccer. You just aim a little too high, and he's the only one with any shot at getting a head on it. But he's also shown the ability for incredibly athletic finishes, including a pair of overhead kicks this season. He also matches Yao in the gentle giant thing, and he's never anything less than friendly.

On February 24 and 25, respectively, Crouch and Terry each got kicked in the face while playing. Both were accidents, both players dipping a bit too low in an attempt to head the ball, both trying to nod it into the net for a goal. Crouch's incident left him with blood pouring from his nose, which was broken and would require surgery.

What's perhaps most interesting to you, the unknowing, is that Crouch's incident did not surprise me. This is a player who does something regularly that is so selfless and reckless, I've hardly ever seen anything like it. It goes like this: other team rolls ball back to its own goalie, who strides up to take a real whack at it, hard enough to send it sometimes 100 yards. And Crouchy, all 6-7 of him, runs right at the goalie, jumps, and throws, you know, HIS HEAD at the ball, which would probably be going 80 miles an hour at this point. He's willing to take a point-blank shot in the skull on the outside chance that it goes off his head, into the goal, and does not simaltaneously kill or maim him.

Peter Crouch, folks, missed a few weeks after a surgery on his nose, and came back with a great hat trick last weekend. And he's still throwing his head around like he doesn't need to take it home at night.

When Rob Hulse accidentally kicked Crouch in the face, it was one of the most stunning things I'd ever seen in sports. It was disgusting.

And what happened the following day to John Terry, during the Carling Cup Final, was so, so much worse.

Abou Diaby, a big, strong, talented midfielder for Arsenal (London's second-best team), appeared to kick as hard as he could in trying to clear the ball from a corner kick. But his foot, at full speed, hit John Terry square in the face in a way that... well, I saw it, I saw a replay, I never need to see it again and I will never be able to get it out of my head.

I will defer now to the Gamecast, which is a moment-by-moment account of current sporting events.

"Jesus. That was bad."

I swear it says that. It was that kind of thing.

John Terry, 27, is a national figure in England. He has a wife, and in May of last year she had twins.

In the 58th minute of a soccer match on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, John Terry dropped to the ground motionless and swallowed his tongue.

Take another crack at that last sentence. I can wait.

A few minutes later, Terry was being given oxygen and Diaby was in tears. Terry was stretchered off in a neckbrace.

Now, because of all the time spent on Terry's situation, the referee added 10 extra minutes to the contest, and because it was the final of a tournament, and because Chelsea won, the team was at the stadium for a while, longer than they normally would have been.

Before they had the time to leave the building, John Terry checked himself out of the hospital and came back to celebrate.

This happened on February 25, and on March 14, less than 20 days later, John Terry played all 90 minutes of Chelsea's game. Since March 14, he has played 630 out of 630 minutes, and Chelsea has won all seven of those games except one, which they tied. They've given up only four goals in these games, all of which are crucial for Chelsea.

I'm not trying to say that Peter Crouch's broken nose and recovery should make you love, or at least respect soccer players.

Nor should you respect soccer players just because John Terry took THAT kick and came back to the stadium, and to the field, so quickly.

But Petr Cech, the world-class goalie behind Terry, playing with a head-pad since January because in October of 2006 he took a knee that fractured his skull?

At some point as an American you will be at a bar, or in a coffeeshop, or in the line at a gas station, and someone will be talking about why soccer is not a sport, or at least not a real one, or at least not one for tough guys.

You don't have to say anything to this person, and really, don't waste your time. But you will know better.

All right, that'll do for today.

What follows is another re-post, this one from my days as a high school columnist. I tried out for the basketball team as a senior and wrote a giant column on it, which ran over a two-page spread. Really, it's enormous, and it is essentially my first draft. And that's the kind of thing you can do when you're a columnist and a co-editor of a high school paper. And I enjoyed that freedom so much, and it set me back so much as a writer, that you can now find me blogging on the prestigious internet.

This time, I don't have the final version on my laptop, so I'll at least be re-typing a lot of it, which is sort of like writing. Of course, I'd prefer not to retype it.

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.

Thanks for reading. If you haven't yet, scroll down and meet Bob Schulte.

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