2018 FIFA World Cup profile: GERMANY

What do you give the team that has everything, or at least almost everything? Germany comes in as the defending champion, and for many, this writer included, they have to be a favorite to repeat. They lead Group F heading into Russia.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.flagpedia.net.

Team profile 
Nickname: Die Mannschaft
Total appearances (including 2018): 18
Best finish: Champions (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)
Current manager: Joachim Löw
Caps leader: Lothar Matthäus (150)
Leading scorer(s): Miroslav Klose (71)

The Cup 
Group/Placement: F1
Date of qualification: October 5, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 1

June 17 vs. Mexico – Moscow (Luzhniki)
June 23 vs. Sweden – Sochi
June 27 vs. South Korea – Kazan

The defending champions show no signs of slowing down. They won the Confederations Cup with what was essentially a B-team roster. This team could be scary for years to come. And to think that about 15 years ago, Die Mannschaft was in need of a serious rebuild. I think they’ve met those lofty expectations.

Some people have this as a potential group of death. I don’t see it, at least not for the seeded team. Germany is strong in every position, although an injury to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is one of the few things that might slow them down. Still, if he plays, Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund) is said to be a more than capable replacement.

Chasing down history is attacker Thomas Müller. He has ten goals in his Cup career, and his former teammate Miroslav Klose is the all-time leading Cup scorer with sixteen. If Müller gets hot, though, that record may quickly be in jeopardy. Germany is loaded. If there’s one team that said to be safe money, at least in theory, it’s said to be them. Even if they’re still not everybody’s favorite team, the technical precision is glorious to watch. No team has repeated since 1962,  but history may be on Germany’s side this time.

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Thomas Müller and his team will be chasing history in Russia. Photo courtesy of http://www.goal.com. 

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Germany’s DFB crest logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.logos.wikia.com. 


Best foot forward

“Because I wonder sometimes 
About the outcome of a still verdictless life. 
Am I living it right? 
Am I living it right? 
Am I living it right? 
Why, why, Georgia, why?” 

John Mayer (“Why Georgia”) 

This post’s writing begins at 11:15 at night on a Thursday. On said night in Bloomington (“B-Town”), it’s unseasonably warm but rainy. And this isn’t a light breezy rain, either. In this pocket of the world, this is a pretty hefty downpour for mid-February. There’s a haunting gloom on my street. The cascade of the streetlights give the sidewalks a misty feeling, a mysticism if you will. Rain aside, it was a perfect night for a walk around the block.

A previous post talked about how I don’t drive as a consequence of my autism, and the frequent reluctance to explain it. There are moments where I wonder if it’s fear more than anything, even if that fear is justified. And, yes, I am aware of the irony of the beginning of the song lyrics I posted above (with John Mayer talking about “driving up 85” and how he’s tempted to “keep the car in drive”). That’s the reason for posting them. I flipped them around for this post.

It’s still somewhat painful to talk about not knowing how to do it. But having read other testimonials does ease it somewhat. More and more, it seems like American teenagers are waiting to get a driver’s license, and apparently there are increasing numbers who aren’t getting them at all. As much as I may lament about the over-reliance of technology, for once it seems like they’re pushing back against that technology. Has anyone ever noticed that for a species that’s supposed to be so advanced, we often need some form of machinery to accomplish menial tasks?

Even the rain doesn’t bother me as much. There are times where I can appreciate a good shower. This wasn’t a long walk, just to the gas station one block away and back. And while it wasn’t as bad as other times, there was more drenching of my clothing than I was anticipating. But I had an epiphany on this walk. I realized an unexpected benefit all of these years of being a pedestrian has gotten me.

And you might say this is an important benefit. Here it is: Being a pedestrian taught me self-reliance. This walking journey started during my freshman year of college at Indiana University. Having seen several major streets from the passenger’s seat, it became second-nature in a very short while. For three years, ironically non-consecutively, I lived off campus in two houses. With my parents having divorced when I was around 12, my dad had moved off the highway, so I would always catch a ride with him when I would stay with him and my stepmom. But when my mom was still alive, the walk home to her house, my boyhood home, was one of the favorite parts of my college experience. I semi-officially paid her rent for a few months before graduation. I don’t remember when it clicked, or even where, or how. But after about a year of using the campus and city buses, I realized I didn’t want to be bunched into a crowded vehicle, with some days being S.R.O. (Standing Room Only). Really getting going sophomore year, I began walking everywhere – to play rehearsals, back to my mom’s house, to sporting events, and of course to class. It not only became second nature easier, but faster. Funnily enough, factoring in stops or other distractions for drivers, there were times where I got to where I was going faster by being on foot.

Not to brag, but one of the greatest gifts I got was one I gave myself. The IU students who do drive often complain about having to take the bus to the parking lot of Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium (the basketball arena and football stadium, respectively, which are right next to each other) to move their cars from one lot to the other. And this is assuming they got a decent enough parking pass. On foot, I never had to worry about that. Even crossing the street to go to Armstrong Stadium (soccer) was no big deal for me. I never really thought about this until recently, but one of the best parts of my college experience was giving myself that spatial flexibility.

I may not have actually moved out on my own until I was 25, but in hindsight, I did plan ahead pretty well. Once I moved into my first apartment in August 2012, I hit the ground running and never looked back. I’ve been doing it on my own ever since. I think the self-reliance that walking forced me to have definitely helped. I may be a millennial, but there’s a part of me that agrees with previous generations – as much as we want to be autonomous, we don’t really know how to because of our technological cravings.

I want to challenge that assertion. Slow down. Put your phone away, or better yet, do what I did on this walk – I didn’t take it with me at all (I would take it on longer walks, though). Call me crazy. I like to use the term resilient. If I can walk home in a downpour without an umbrella at 1 a.m. to a place forty-five minutes away after seeing The Fighter (true story, by the way; I did this during my last year), I think I can handle a lot. As illogical as it was, it built character. I had taught myself well.

So, let me amend the words slightly of a famous ’80s song. Get out or your cars and onto your feet. For some of the greatest teachers, sometimes all you need to do is look down. So go, and put your best foot forward.

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Photo courtesy of Fitness and Wellness News. 

Dear applicant

It’s either time, or approaching it, when high school students seriously begin sending out college applications. I don’t know how it works in other countries, but here much of it depends on SAT/ACT scores and extracurricular activities, and oftentimes, a letter from the prospective student. When it took the SAT test, it was the first year it had adjusted from the 1600 to 2400 point scale. I was middle of the road, although I admittedly didn’t study for it as much. Admissions at Indiana University didn’t weigh those scores as heavily at the time. And being a professor’s son helped. If you’ve read some of my previous posts about what it meant to be in college, you’ll forgive me for repeating myself. Having the benefit of age – and a diploma – on my side, it’s easier to appreciate college. Last year, I did an interview about what it was like to be in college and autistic. To reiterate what I said: I don’t necessarily regret going to college (maybe a few things, and I’d argue a little regret is good), but I also don’t miss it as much. I felt like I peaked in high school. I wonder if being so close to home had to do with it. I never felt like I belonged in college, both neurologically and geographically.

But I’m writing this post to any student filling out applications for colleges. Hope some of you will consider IU and becoming a Hoosier. 😛 But wherever you go, it’s a whole new level. The work is harder, the pressure is higher, and I’ve seen some of the best people crack. You don’t need me to tell you about the how-to’s of college applications – most students already know (or should know) how to write a coherent essay. You don’t need me to tell you to take deep breaths. I don’t have kids and don’t really want them, so I’d like to think I never have to really give this advice. But if I have any, it’s more about the psychological side of college. The ins and outs – where to go, what to do, etc. – I’ll leave to more qualified people. What I’m hoping to do is try to probe a little deeper into what it means to be a college student in 2018 and beyond. I started my college experience in August 2006, and finished in May 2011. A lot has changed about American colleges since then – not just cost, or classes, but also culture, and expectations. Oftentimes, the invisible stuff, the personal stuff, is what defines our college experience. I still keep in contact with a few college friends, but the connection was always stronger for me in high school. Perhaps I just had an amazing graduating class (my dad agreed with this assessment when I brought it up recently), or perhaps we were old enough to actually remember the pre-technology boom that now seems to pervade our lives. Maybe I’m just getting older. Maybe words from a neutral perspective will help a little bit

If this post does fall short, then I apologize. But I want to give it my best shot. I’ll try to focus on the culture of college, rather than classes or money or anything like that.

Here you go with my advice/tips.

1. Trust is earned, not given. 
It can be very tempting to rebel against authority figures. To a certain extent, I understand it. I was actually the other way around. My first experience in a bar was at age 23, right before the beginning my fifth and final year at IU. And I’ve only had one drink in my entire life, and that was a few months ago at age 30. You are welcome to do those things, but don’t be surprised if trouble comes with it. And if it does, own up to it. It will save yourself – and potentially others – from getting in more trouble.

2. Know what you’re risking. 
There was a case at IU in fall 2015 about a sophomore who reportedly made racial slurs and then physically assaulted a woman in a restaurant while drunk. He was immediately expelled. The social and political conversations aside, there was no logic to his decision. First, he was underage, so that could also have been disastrous. But think about the deeper psychological context: he was in his first semester of his second year at his school, barely back in school for a few weeks. And just as quickly, he was out of it. I don’t know what happened afterwards, and I’m not sure I want to. All I know is this: the stigma of the expulsion is going to follow him around for the rest of his life. When he applies to colleges now, he’ll not only have to explain that he was kicked out, but why as well. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe in. But know that spirit has limitations. In certain cases, you may be risking more than you think.

3. There is freedom in solitude. 
This doesn’t just apply in college, by the way. But it seems like it matters more in college. So many college students buy into the stigma about how somebody going out in public alone is either really boring or really depressed. Well, let me clear it up: I did this all the time, and I do it even more now. I can eat what I want, go to any movie I want, etc. Not only do I have the whatever, I have the whenever. I can move at my pace, set my own timetable. In a sense, I am liberated. I am free. Perhaps a generation of helicopter parenting has made their kids afraid to take risks. Perhaps the hubris of youth has forced us to define it a certain way. Even when I was in college, I don’t ever remember getting a single pitying glance at going out for pizza, or going out to the movies, or whatever. I did go to a few college football games (i.e. gridiron football, with the helmets) with my residence hall (several floors did a get-together), but those were fewer and further between. I may have done that only once with that big a group. And here was the other thing about it – IU’s football team wasn’t that good. They’re better now than some of the years I was there, but there’s still not much to brag about. As a result, when a lot of those same people leave early, either to beat traffic (which, fairly enough, is horrible even on a good day at Memorial Stadium) or because they just want to go to the post-game parties, it can be a little awkward wanting to stay because you actually want to watch the game. Yes, there can be some safety concerns about being by yourself, especially at night, and on foot, like I was and am. In those cases, it’s perfectly reasonable to want somebody to go with. But socially, I don’t think it really matters as much as we think.

4. It ends as quickly as it begins. 
Admittedly, being a professor’s son, there was always an expectation to go to college. I wanted to put my head down, go to classes, do a few things out of class here and there, and get the degree. If only it were that simple. The beautiful part of college, which we often can’t see for a variety of reasons, is the offer of numerous services, and new potential for growth. I’d argue that it’s fine if you do what I did in college – I did admittedly have a “means to an end” attitude to it. I wanted the diploma. I wanted to be done. And now, at the end of the school years, it’ll be seven years since I’ve been out. I hold two B.A.s from a Big Ten university, with one of the most scenically beautiful campuses in the country. Who wouldn’t take that? I’ve grown up with it my whole life, and it’s hard to get away from it, at least for me. Some can get out of it a lot faster. But wherever you go, whatever you study, anything, I’d argue college is the last bastion of childhood. It’s the last chance to shed your childhood, before making the mandatory step into adulthood. Letting go of it is hard, trust me. I’ve been there. If you can overcome that barrier, you’ll be fine. I think this last piece of advice is the best one I can give. If you can get the degree, then you’ve done something you can be proud of.

Hopefully, this helped. I’m no expert. These are just my thoughts on it. But one of the purposes of college is to expand or redefine viewpoints. Maybe I can do that here. It doesn’t have to come from a classroom.

Best of luck to those students on their applications. Here you go!

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Photo courtesy of http://www.hercampus.com. 

Pitchers and catchers report

It’s finally here – the day when most baseball teams report for spring training. While not officially in the regular season, baseball season is back again.

It’s not a lie that baseball serves as a metaphor for life for many people. Whether its the design of the game, or the longevity, or the geography, or whatever it is, baseball seems to mean more for a lot of people than other sports. For some, “pitchers and catchers report” are their four favorite words of the year.

Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers open their camp in Fort Myers, Florida. Practice games begin in about ten days, before the season starts on March 29. It should be a fun season.

Several free agent contracts still have to be negotiated, and other radical changes, such as a pitch clock, are coming to Major League Baseball. For all the talk about baseball taking too long, maybe the fans just aren’t able to keep up. In Ken Burns’ documentary, one of his interviewees talks about “pondering inaction.” There’s a Zen-like quality to the game. Even in nothingness, there is something.

For all of its problems, past and present, it’s just hard to let go of this game for many of us. To paraphrase a writer who talked about the approaching date, there’s a reason that the phrase reads as “hope springs eternal.”

We’re back, assuming that we ever left in the first place.

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Photo courtesy of http://www.mlb.com. 

Seller’s market: The World Baseball Classic

I was reading an article from about a year or so ago about the World Baseball Classic. It made an interesting point.

Funnily enough, although the United States won the 2017 edition of the World Baseball Classic, the fourth played overall, many of the premier players were missing from it. As great as Marcus Stroman was in the championship game against Puerto Rico, it wasn’t like seeing Clayton Kershaw. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and other players also stayed away. But following the U.S.’s run, many players were soon lamenting the fact that they declined the invitation, or weren’t able to attend. Trout appears open to appearing in the 2021 Classic. They still need to sell the game to a world market, but I don’t think it’ll be hard. The Netherlands went quickly on the rise in each of the last two tournaments, finishing fourth place both years, and nearly making the finals in 2017. Consider that America is considered to have invented baseball, and yet it took them until the fourth iteration of the tournament to actually win it – Japan won the first two, and Dominican Republic won the third. I think – at least I hope – the tournament is here to stay. They played to 51,000 fans in the final, and the passion shown by the rest of the world was amazing. As I mentioned before, even a country like Pakistan making it to the final qualifier is an amazing story. They didn’t win a game or even score a run in that qualifier, but just to play shows how much the game’s profile is increasing. It still has a ways to go, but I think the 2017 edition proved the tournament’s staying power.

There is still room for improvement. Part of the reason why some stayed away is because of the interference with spring training. The United States lost one of its players, pitcher Chris Archer, to that schedule and didn’t bring him back for the championship rounds. Maybe you can hold the tournament after the World Series, say in November. Maybe you can play indoors, like they did in Japan and South Korea. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is talking about potentially expanding the sub-qualifiers for 2021, and player rep Tony Clark is in agreement. That would mean (hopefully) that teams like Belgium (!!, let’s go Red Hawks), Bahamas, Ireland, and others from the previous qualifiers would get a chance. If the passion of last year’s tournament was any indicator, I think it’ll be good to increase the profile. We should know the sub-qualifiers either this year or in 2019, then the final qualifiers in 2020.

Under current WBC rules, the top three teams in each group automatically advance, while the last place team must re-enter qualification for the next tournament. Here’s who’s in which group.

Qualified automatically for 2021 World Baseball Classic (in alphabetical order)
1. Australia
2. Colombia
3. Cuba
4. Dominican Republic
5. Israel
6. Italy
7. Japan
8. Netherlands
9. Puerto Rico
10. South Korea
11. United States
12. Venezuela

Teams that must re-enter qualification
1. Canada
2. China
3. Chinese Taipei
4. Mexico

Potential teams we may see in qualification, if tournament expands (based on what I’ve heard from outlets)
1. Belgium
2. Brazil
3. Cameroon
4. Czech Republic
5. France
6. Germany
7. Great Britain
8. New Zealand
9. Nicaragua
10. Nigeria
11. Pakistan
12. Panama
13. Philippines
14. South Africa
15. Spain
16. Sri Lanka
17. Uganda
18. Ukraine

The governing body, known as the World Baseball Softball Confederation, also does its own yearly rankings. You can find them at http://www.wbsc.org. As of 2017, Belgium was 31st in the world, so not great, but not terrible. They were still in the top 70. 🙂 Maybe they’ll get a shot one day. I’d love to see the qualifiers expand, and hope to see them play. 🙂

One thing I’d suggest MLB doing is adding a league liaison, perhaps a scout or a former player, who travels around the world to pitch the game, no pun intended. It could be some kind of baseball ambassador role. Bring a glove and have a catch, right?

This was always my first game. I introduced my dad to it, and if he doesn’t love it as much as I do, I think he can understand it really well. There is a romance to it. There are story lines almost every year.

Not to be forward, but maybe one day I’ll meet some of the viewers of this blog from overseas. If I do, let’s have a catch. We can talk the game, and perhaps we can learn from each other. It’s not called the national pastime for nothing.

And, oh yeah, tomorrow is the day when pitchers and catchers report.

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The U.S. cap logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.awesomesportslogo.com. 

Baseball retrospectives: “Not a young thirty.”

Baseball’s spring training is only two days away! Some of the best stories are also some of the most controversial. Here’s another baseball retrospective, with a little bit of a re-examination.

To foreshadow, let’s quote a classic baseball movie.

“….Sometimes it seems like a bad trade, but bad trades are part of baseball. Now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake! It’s a long season, and you gotta trust it.”

Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), Bull Durham 

Two monumental events occurred on December 9, 1965. The first was that longtime St. Louis Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey died at the age of eighty-three. A former Cardinals manager, Rickey had ben seen as an innovator early in his career, developing the minor league farm system with the Cardinals in the 1910s and 1920s. But more importantly, he was famous for signing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He did also lead the Pittsburgh Pirates late in his life. On the other side, Rickey did tend to have a reputation as a cheapskate, but I think his legacy was solidified during his career.

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Branch Rickey. Photo courtesy of http://www.sabr.org. 

The other big event involved a monumental trade between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cincinnati Reds. The trade was simple: Cincinnati got pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun, and outfielder Dick Simpson. In exchange, Baltimore received outfielder Frank Robinson. It would become known as one of the most lopsided trades in Major League history. But how disastrous was it?

History says that the trade favored Baltimore right from the beginning. The reasoning for it goes back to Reds’ general manager Bill DeWitt. Although Robinson had been NL Rookie of the Year in 1956, and the NL MVP in 1961, leading the Reds to the pennant that same year, DeWitt rationalized the trade by claiming that Robinson was “an old thirty.” That wasn’t technically true. The quote was that he “was not a young thirty.”

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Frank Robinson with the Cincinnati Reds. Photo courtesy of http://www.blogredmachine.com. 

Taking the other two players out of the deal, the trade was essential Robinson for Pappas. Certain sources claim that the call was actually Baltimore’s, since Pappas had a reputation for being a compulsive whiner, which was frowned upon by the baseball men in the 1960s. There were also rumors that the front office was babying him a little bit, never giving him a chance to pitch himself out of jams. Oh, how times have changed – that argument is standard practice now. So, looked at another way, maybe Pappas was the real problem. Maybe it wasn’t who the Reds gave up, but who they got back.

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Milt Pappas with the Orioles. Photo courtesy of http://www.throneberryfields.com. 

As a result of the trade, Pappas was never fully accepted in Cincinnati. He had a winning record in 1966, but it was only 12-11. He was soon sent to the Atlanta Braves, then to the Chicago Cubs. He never quite shook his reputation as a complainer. In 1972 at Wrigley Field, he was one strike away from a perfect game before umpire Bruce Froemming called two straight pitches as a ball. Pappas completed his no-hitter one batter later, but never let Froemming live it down. Froemming claims that Pappas initially agreed with him that it was slightly outside, but as the years went on, “that pitch got better and better.” Pappas also became the first pitcher ever to win 200 games without ever winning 20 in a single season, finishing with 209 overall. Baldschun and Simpson quickly fell apart, and were never expected to be more than bit players anyway.

By contrast, Robinson lifted the Orioles to new heights. He would go on to set two Major League records. He was the only player ever to win the Most Valuable Player award in both the American and National League, which still stands to this day. He also won the Triple Crown, which is where the hitter leads the league in batting average (.316), home runs (49), and RBI (122). Robinson then led the Orioles to a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, giving the team their first ever championship. And he was World Series MVP that same year. The folly of Bill DeWitt’s decision was later proven when the Orioles and the Reds played each other in the 1970 World Series four years later. The Orioles won in five games, although it was another Robinson – Brooks – that did the damage that year. While both teams would have mini-dynasties in the decade, it makes you wonder: could the Reds have won that Series with Robinson on that roster? To be fair, Frank Robinson was 35 years old at the time. But still, he went on to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1982, finishing with 2,943 hits, a .294 batting average, and 586 home runs. He later went on to become the first black manager in baseball history, and again became the first to do it in both leagues, breaking in with the Cleveland Indians in 1975 and later repeating the feat with the San Francisco Giants in 1981.

There’s one more wrinkle to this, though: Bill DeWitt was forever punished for this deal. But after several more trades, he actually got several other great players, like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and Pete Rose. And he also had a Hall of Fame manager in Sparky Anderson. DeWitt was instrumental in building the “Big Red Machine” of the ’70s. So, I ask again – was it really as bad of a trade as it seemed? In the short-term, it favored the Orioles. And imagine how amazing the Reds could have been had they kept him. At the same time, it allowed Cincinnati to build a pretty good dynasty of their own. Time-wise, I think it’s a more favorable trade than it gets credit for. I think a lot of the flack it was down to Pappas instead of Robinson. His reputation cost the Reds front office a lot of points.

Both sides gained some things, although it took the Reds a little longer. As Casey Stengel would say, “You could look it up!”

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Frank Robinson with the Baltimore Orioles. Photo courtesy of Baseball Hall of Fame. 

World Cup fashion: Belgium home kit

In the ESPN book about the World Cup, entitled The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need To Know About The Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (co-written by American David Hirshey and Briton Roger Bennett), there are several paragraphs dedicated to World Cup fashion. With the advent of the Internet, it’s now more common to see football jerseys popping up all over the world, including the United States. It’s no longer a niche market, and I’d argue it’s all the better for it.

One of the few downsides of living by myself is that I have limited range for selfie photos. And no, I don’t have the selfie stick. As a result, I don’t have a full body shot of Belgium’s home kit for Russia 2018, but I’m wearing it head to toe right now, and the baseball cap as well (if I could get away with it on the pitch, I would totally wear one while playing). Funnily enough, Brazilian manager Dunga once outlawed his players from wearing them in any capacity, forcing Neymar to follow it to the letter, to the latter’s chagrin. I may have to describe it in words instead of pictures, but here it is. I’ll do my best.

The home jersey and shorts are similar. One thing I really like is the minimalism on the shoulders of the jersey. Belgium is sponsored by Adidas this year, but I like the fact that the three stripes have been moved to the side piping, and they’re a darker shade of red (or they look somewhere between maroon and red). It’s the same on the shorts, which feature the crest on the bottom right. The shirt itself has a modified argyle pattern, inspired by their look at Euro ’84. Not my favorite look, I admit, but not as bad as some other ones I’ve seen in recent years. Although given it’s a little lighter and blends in the red better, I actually think it looks okay for what it is. Interestingly, the crest logo is in the middle of the shirt instead of on the left breast as is usually the case. That’s the only design flaw I can see. It leaves the Adidas logo hanging on the right side. Plus, it looks more of a mustard yellow, as opposed to the lime yellow that was part of it in qualifiers (to be fair, I thought those lime yellow shorts looked pretty cool). The away kit hasn’t been released yet (should be out next month), but I’m already trying to find it if I can. For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, yellow is said to be the main color of the shirt. They’ve worn black as the away kit before, which I like a lot, and white works too. As much as I love those sky blue cycling jerseys, I don’t know if they worked on the football pitch. It’ll be interesting to see how it looks.

Funny story about the shorts, by the way: I ordered a pair right before Christmas from Belgium, but somehow, the zip code was typed in incorrectly, so as far as I can tell, it got lost in transit in Maine, and is apparently still there. So, I re-ordered them from Subside Sports in the UK, and threw in the socks to match. Simple clerical error, and embarrassing, but these things happen.

Lastly, the socks are nice. For a size XL, they are actually pretty long. Most of it is red, with the three stripes folded over on the inside, assuming you do fold them. The three stripes are also in red on the top of the foot, which is interspersed with a streak of gray around the front and side. The world “Belgium” is written in yellow block letters on the “left” side, and the Adidas logo is in the same mustard yellow closer to the “right” side, assuming socks have them. A larger version of the Adidas logo, also in mustard yellow, is in the back, as close to the middle of the sock as it can get. I know it’s hard to describe without photos, but hopefully you get an okay picture.

Here’s the best photo I’ve got. It’s not much, but I think it works. 20180211_200423

Happy hundreds!

With regards to the viewer contest, it’s been a neck-and-neck race over the last few days between the second and third place countries, Belgium and the United Kingdom. And as of 7:32 p.m., right after the new viewing day commences, we have a switch in the standings! The United Kingdom reaches 100 views with three in the last half hour! Outside of the United States, of course, they are the second country to join the 100 club. And amazingly, Belgium is literally one view behind them, with only one view needed to join as well! It’s been back and forth for the past several days. I figured that the UK would vault ahead, given its population. Belgium, you need to pick up your game. I’ve got a lot to write about if I get to. 🙂 All we need is one more, and they’re in the group, too.

Elsewhere, France and Ireland chipped in in the past few days, gradually boosting up their numbers. France is currently tied for sixth with South Korea (16 views apiece), and Ireland and Canada (13) sit tied for seventh. Even if certain countries can’t get their profile on this site, there can still be a measure of pride. I’m proud to have expanded this as far as I can. Whatever language we speak, we all have stories to tell. Thanks for listening to mine.

Welcome to the club, United Kingdom, with Belgium on deck!

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Bem-vindo to our forty-second country in the viewer contest, Portugal! This one is really nice for me, as I just started learning Portuguese. I actually got to speak a little bit of it last night in checking out a guest from Brazil. He told me I have very good pronunciation. I think as an actor, I can hear it pretty well, too. It’s hard to explain it. Maybe mimicry is one of my acting strengths.

Eu falo um pouco de português, e eu espero aprender mais no futuro. Por favor, volte logo! 

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

The Hoosier legend

Having grown up in a college town, and having that university’s teams playing in a major conference (the Big Ten), I’ve been asked a lot: what’s a Hoosier?

In truth, nobody knows. That’s part of the lore of the university. And while “Hoosiers” may be applied to the Indiana University sports teams, it’s also used as the state nickname and its residents. All Indiana residents are considered Hoosiers.

Several stories have emerged as to the origin of the name. The first is pretty simple: it’s the sound a pig makes when it sneezes. I doubt this one is true. The second one says that it derives from the rivalry between Indiana and Kentucky. Since Kentucky became a state first, many of its settlers came to try to scuffle with Indiana residents. The Kentuckians cut off the Hoosiers’ ears, and in their accent, it came out as “Whose ear?” It eventually morphed into “Hoosier.” Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley helped popularize this during his lifetime.

The story I believe dates back to the mid-1820s, when Indiana was a new state. Shipbuilders built a canal along the Indiana-Kentucky border, which were led by a man named Samuel Hoosier, a contractor based out of Louisville. Those working for him were called “Hoosier’s men,” shortened to “Hoosiers.” There are no verified records of it, but it’s the one I choose to believe without going into other connotations. It’s also the name of a type of cabinet familiar to the area.

I think this adds to the luster of the campus. It’s a nice story.

As far as the Hoosier sports teams go, they’ve won 24 national championships, the top three being men’s soccer (7), men’s swimming (6), and men’s basketball (5). There’s been only one women’s champion, the 1982 tennis team. But still, it’s a sight to see. They are student-athletes, which isn’t common outside of the U.S. They do go to school as well. It’s a mixed system, with drawbacks and benefits.

Hoosiers everywhere, you’ll know the stories. That’s part of the legend. Thanks for helping me contribute to it.

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The IU trident. Photo courtesy of http://www.indiana.edu.