Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Notes, or "Period. New paragraph. Capital B..."

Hello. Today's schedule includes a reptile, the Gold Cup Final, and my upcoming trip.

- In a quick Editor's note, later in this post, the U.S. soccer team provides the second entry in my new series "Now that's a real sports picture." I had only previously used this once, and since this is the second time, that makes it a series.

We begin, as you might expect, with crocodile news.

- I think a lot of people have heard of Gustave. Apparently, not nearly enough of them. Please, go to about the 3:00 mark of this video.

One person on youtube had this reaction:
np67 (1 month ago)
Hopefully Gustave is alive and well. I hope he copntinues to eat the people there. Its the foodchain afterall.

According to National Geographic, Gustave was last seen in April of this year. That's a couple months ago. Let's assume he's still alive. And let's be clear: when Gustave was seen in April, it was while he was, you know, attacking fisherman. He's not exactly packing it in and joining the senior tour. He's not doing the lecture tour. He will not be doing a couple nights at the Palms.

Let me say, I'm all for diplomacy whenever it's feasible. I think we should be able to sit down with almost anyone except for the most radical and unreasonable people. But not even Bill Richardson could get Gustave to back down. Hell, I'm not sure if Bill Russell could stop this thing.

Here's how you make the decision of whether Gustave can be allowed to roam free. He's about 20 feet in length. Look around the room you're in right now. Imagine something 20 feet long, and fat, being in that room. Now imagine that you're in the room too.

Can you imagine if this was happening, if this thing was killing hundreds of people in, oh, I don't know, FLORIDA? Would we let this go on? The U.S. does some -- not quite enough -- to support the research of AIDs in Africa, and some to help with poverty, and not nearly enough to help politically. But isn't this something we could solve pretty quickly?

You shoot this thing with a giant dart, loaded with tranquilizer. Maybe two darts. (Maybe throw in a couple shots of Jim Beam, just to be sure.) If the dart holds, Gustave gets put out to pasture and eats chicken cutlets -- and hopefully brings in much-needed money for the people of Burundi -- for the rest of his days.

If the dart doesn't hold? Let's try bullets.

I really like nature, and I prefer to let animals do what they do. But not here. Not at our expense. This is going too far. The fact that the people who share drinking water with this monster are surrounded by the wreckage of their own horrific civil war only makes this decision more obvious to me. Gustave cannot stay there.

I remember reading at one point that Patrice Faye, the naturalist who's followed Gustave closely for some time, was against killing this dinosaur. And originally, I was with him. But something Faye said has been rattling around in my skull for a while, and it seems to have stuck somewhere.

Faye thought that Gustave might be so virile, and have lived so long and been with so many female crocs that he could single-handedly re-populate the area with a new generation of big crocs. Now, I get his motivation here, as a naturalist.

But do you know who's not all that crazy about a new generation of super crocs? A kid who's lost a leg, or a brother, or a father to a reptile.

And hey, np67 (from youtube) -- why don't you go tell that kid where he is on your foodchain?

Okay, I went long on that. But it still felt right. And if you want another reason why I'm not okay with Gustave hangin' out, check the last dash-point in this entry.

- Now, let's get to soccer.

Gold Cup Final - United States 2, Mexico 1 (extended highlights here)

If you were writing the story of the United States men's soccer team, our play in the first 971 minutes (10 games, 71 minutes) of 2007 gets a paragraph. Nine wins, one draw, no losses, 24 goals from 13 players -- nine, count 'em NINE for Landon Donovan -- and a genuinely dominant peformance in our corner of the world. At the end of that paragraph, you'd talk about Mexico scoring first in the Gold Cup final, and then you'd mention Donovan's penalty-kick equalizer.

Then, if you were dictating the story, you'd say, "Period. New paragraph. 'Benny Feilhaber...' "

That's how big Feilhaber's goal was. Unless I turn out to be way, way wrong on this, we can now begin to look at this team's timeline in terms of before and after this goal.

Whew. Okay. I'm gonna' try not to go too far on this, but this is a big deal.

Of all the stories coming out of this tournament -- Demarcus Beasley's audition for big-time European soccer, Landon Donovan's 4-for-4 penalties, Bring Ching getting more and more cleverer -- Benny Feilhaber is the most interesting to me.

Feilhaber's game-winner -- excuse me, tournament-winner -- is now getting the label of the greatest goal in U.S. history. And you'll get no argument on that here.

Benny grew up in Brazil and moved up here when he was six. He bounced around, and eventually finished high school in California. Here's the single most incredible part of Feilhaber's story. He got his attention after appearing with our under-20 national team, but he was only called-up to the team after playing well at UCLA... as a walk-on.

Yeah, that's right. The guy who just scored the greatest goal in our country's soccer history got his big-time start when he walked onto a field in Southern California -- probably rubbing elbows with a dozen stoners and foreign exchange students -- and said, "Excuse me, coach, my name is Benny Feilhaber. I'd like to play some soccer for you."

Everything's been happening pretty fast since then for Feilhaber, now 22. His paychecks come from Hamburg SV right now, but I'm going to guess someone else will want him after what he's done this year. In 543 minutes, Feilhaber has one assist and two goals. The first goal -- shown very coolly just after the 3:00 mark here -- was good. The second goal was good enough to start a new paragraph.

While Feilhaber's been on the field, the U.S. has scored 15 goals and given up only three. That's in only eight games, and -- whoop, here comes the big point -- those eight games are Benny Feilhaber's FIRST EIGHT GAMES on the national team.

Wake up the kids. It's time to start watching the national team.

We're marching out a second-tier squad of youngster for the Copa America. There, we'll meet Argentina, which is bringing in an almost full squad. That game happens on Thursday.

We are not marching these kids out to a slaughter. We're not bringing our best group, but I am now of the delusional opinion that our second team shouldn't get blown-out by anybody. By the way, there is one player of note who will be available for Copa America.

Demarcus Beasley burns his fingers touching teammate Benny Feilhaber, mere moments before Feilhaber burst into flames.

Now that, folks, is a real sports picture.

- Okay, now to my last news of the day. This one files under "Self serving crap," but if you're a reader here, you might care too.

I'm leaving the country this summer. I'll be heading to South Africa for a 3-month trip, where I'm accompanying the girlfriend. She's doing a semester abroad, and I'm going to volunteer coaching youngsters.

I don't think I need to explain that this means the blog will take a severe turn away from it's current form. Instead of constant yammering about the NBA -- my God, enough! -- I'll be writing more about my personal experience in that country. I'm trying to think of a good way to market those kind of stories. I'm thinking of filing them under "Clash of cultures," but I think I'd get a lot more interest if I called it "Clash of vultures." That sounds like something people would want to know about. (And as Junior from Reno 911 would note, Clash of Vultures is a wicked-awesome band name.)

And now I'm going to announce something that hopefully puts a lot of pressure on me and makes me actually do what I'm about to say. Given the amount of free time I expect to find around my volunteering schedule, I would like to use the opportunity to start writing a book about the 2010 World Cup.

Becuase I'm not exactly, uh, being published right now, I plan to market the book in this way: report as much as possible during this trip, and post the first chapter on the blog once I feel ready. So, that's something to look forward to.

And now, to come full circle: being in Port Elizabeth puts me roughly 7,000 miles away from a certain murderous reptile. And 7,000 miles is far too close for me. If somebody doesn't get that thing out of the water before I get there, I might -- after a good amount of really good whiskey -- think about killing the son of a bitch myself.

That'll do for now. Back later this week with my big, fat ugly NBA draft coverage.

Thanks for coming out. You've been great.

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