Monthly Archives: February 2017

The great movie questionnaire!

Some of you may have seen my Facebook posts about my lists. As a big movie buff, I want to do the following list.

Here are my conditions
1. All opinions are mine and mine alone.
2. Timing-wise, I’ll be as accurate as I can.
3. Anybody is welcome to participate.
4. For the sake of argument and to make it more challenging, put only one answer (ONE) for each question if you do respond back.
5. Some questions will require you to post spoilers. So, be warned: SPOILER ALERT

Questionnaire 
1. What is your favorite movie? 
Gandhi (1982)

2. What is your least favorite movie, or the worst movie you’ve seen? 
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)

3. What is a classic movie that everybody else seems to like that you dislike (i.e. your most overrated film)? 
The Shining (1980)

4. What is one classic film that not a lot of people know about but should (i.e. a hidden gem)? 
Key Largo (1948)

5. What was the first movie you remember seeing? 
The first one I remember seeing is Beauty and the Beast (1991)

6. What was the first R-rated movie you ever saw? 
Speed (1994)

7. What was the first R-rated movie you saw in theaters?
Bowling for Columbine (2002)

8. Same as #7, except the first one you saw by yourself 
I think it was Garden State (2004)

9. Favorite Golden Age of Hollywood Actor (pre-1960) 
Gregory Peck

10. Favorite Golden Age of Hollywood Actress (pre-1960) 
Audrey Hepburn

11. Favorite contemporary actor 
Sir Ben Kingsley

12. Favorite contemporary actress 
Reese Witherspoon

13. Actor or actress you like that others don’t 
Ben Affleck

14. Actor or actress you don’t like that others do 
Cate Blanchett

15. Best or favorite movie ending 
The last 20 minutes of The Departed (2006)

16. Best or favorite twist ending
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – Christine (Marlene Dietrich) has not only helped the lawyer get her husband off the hook, but the twist is that she wasn’t lying and he really did do it.

17. Favorite unresolved movie ending 
Inception (2010)

18. Strangest film “conspiracy theory” you can remember 
Willy Wonka and his cohorts in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) did not choose the children that won the contest randomly; the whole thing, in other words, was a setup

19. Movie moment that first made you go “WOW” 
Woody and Buzz flying in Toy Story (1995)

20. Favorite film monologue 
Atticus Finch’s closing argument in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

21. Favorite film hero 
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) – To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

22. Favorite film villain
Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) – No Country for Old Men (2007)

23. Your funniest movie 
Airplane! (1980)

24. Most recent film you saw in theaters 
La La Land 

25. Most recent film you saw at home 
The Graduate 

26. Scene you could watch over and over again 
The greenhouse scene from In the Heat of the Night (1967) – Sidney Poitier at his absolute best

27. Film you’ve only seen once and never want to see again
Melancholia (2011)

28. Favorite movie quote 
“And remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” – The Wizard of Oz (1939)

29. Film you haven’t seen yet that you want to 
Saving Private Ryan (1998), but the mood hasn’t been right

30. Film you’ve started watching but haven’t finished 
Some Like It Hot (1959) – I saw the first half, but I still haven’t seen the whole thing fifteen years later

31. Favorite locations for films 
Boston and its surrounding areas

32. Curious fact about your movie-going experience that nobody knows
As mentioned above, I hated The Shining. What I didn’t tell you is just how much – so much so that it actually ruined Stanley Kubrick for me. Except for Full Metal Jacket, I’ve never seen any of his other films, and to be honest, I don’t want to.

Why 32 questions? I just couldn’t think of any more except for those. Plus, it is a divisible number. Hope you enjoy, and you’re welcome to respond.

Advertisements

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: My List

Time for me to put my money where my mouth is. If I’m really that much of a movie buff, time to prove it.

Rules
1. I must have seen it all the way through.
2. If I’ve seen parts of it, but not all the way through, I’ll label it “partial.”
3. Films will be listed by decades, and chronologically by years.
4. Of course, it must be listed in the book.
5. This is from the 2015 version only.

Pre-1930s 
1. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
2. The Great Train Robbery (1903)
3. Un Chien Andalou (1929)

1930s
1. City Lights (1931)
2. Scarface: Shame of a Nation (1932)
3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
4. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

1940s 
1. Pinocchio (1940)
2. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
3. Dumbo (1941)
4. La belle et la bête (1946)
5. Rope (1948)
6. The Third Man (1949)

1950s
1. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
2. 12 Angry Men (1957)
3. Vertigo (1958)
4. Some Like It Hot (1959)

1960s
1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
2. Mary Poppins (1964)
3. The Sound of Music (1965)
4. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
5. The Jungle Book (1967)
6. The Graduate (1967)
7. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

1970s 
1. Little Big Man (1970)
2. Patton (1970)
3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
4. American Graffiti (1973)
5. Young Frankenstein (1974)
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
7. All the President’s Men (1976)
8. Star Wars (1977)
9. Alien (1979)
10. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

1980s
1. Ordinary People (1980)
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
3. Airplane! (1980)
4. The Shining (1980)
5. Chariots of Fire (1981)
6. Gandhi (1982)
7. A Christmas Story (1983)
8. Return of the Jedi (1983)
9. Scarface (1983)
10. Amadeus (1984)
11. The Breakfast Club (1985)
12. Platoon (1986)
13. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
14. Stand By Me (1986)
15. Raising Arizona (1987)
16. The Princess Bride (1987)
17. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
18. Fatal Attraction (1987)
19. Bull Durham (1988)
20. Spoorloos (1988)
21. The Naked Gun (1988)
22. Big (1988)
23. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
24. Rain Man (1988)
25. Die Hard (1988)
26. Field of Dreams (1989)
27. Glory (1989)

1990s 
1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
2. Unforgiven (1992)
3. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
4. Philadelphia (1993)
5. The Piano (1993)
6. Jurassic Park (1993)
7. Schindler’s List (1993)
8. The Lion King (1994)
9. Pulp Fiction (1994)
10. Clerks (1994)
11. Babe (1995)
12. Se7en (1995)
13. Clueless (1995)
14. Toy Story Trilogy (1995/1999/2010)
15. Fargo (1996)
16. Scream (1996)
17. Independence Day (1996)
18. Run Lola Run (1998)
19. Rushmore (1998)
20. American Beauty (1999)

2000s-2010s
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
2. Bowling for Columbine (2002)
3. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
4. There Will Be Blood (2007)
5. The Hurt Locker (2008)
6. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
7. The Dark Knight (2008)
8. Black Swan (2010)
9. Inception (2010)
10. The Social Network (2010)
11. Lincoln (2012)
12. Django Unchained (2012)
13. Gravity (2013)
14. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
15. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
16. Boyhood (2014)
17. Birdman (2014)
18. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Totals: 98 of 1001 (9.7%)

Somewhat disappointing, but it’s a start…

Partials
1. The Jazz Singer (1927)
2. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
4. My Fair Lady (1964)
5. The Godfather (1972)
6. The Godfather Part II (1974)
7.Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
8. Shoah (1985)
9. Strictly Ballroom (1992)
10. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
11. The Usual Suspects (1995)
12. Titanic (1997)
13. The Thin Red Line (1998)
14. Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)

Baseball is back!: Curious factoids

Spring training is officially upon us. The full games haven’t started, and the WBC is scheduled to start in March, so we’ve got a full slate of baseball ahead of it.

Because there are thirty teams, here are thirty curiosities I found in Major League Baseball.

1. Pitchers aren’t known for being good hitters. In 1963, Giants rookie pitcher Gaylord Perry jokingly predicted that a man would land on the moon before he ever hit a home run. On July 20, 1969, several hours after Neil Armstrong had set foot on the moon, Perry smacked the first (and only) home run of his career.

2. Ballplayers are a suspicious lot. Some of my favorite superstitions include: dressing entirely in blue on days he pitched, socks and shoes included (Mike Cuellar); eating two full stacks of pancakes on the day he pitched (Jim Palmer); eating licorice and brushing his teeth in the dugout between innings (Turk Wendell); taking three swings, or any multiple of three, before stepping into the batter’s box (Larry Walker). But my personal favorite has to be Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda. He believed that every bat only had one hit in it, so he would discard it as soon as he got a hit with it. For the record, he recorded over 2,300 hits in his career. That’s a lot of wood to use.

3. Although the New York Yankees have won the most World Series games, the team with the best World Series winning percentage as of the end of the 2016 season is the Toronto Blue Jays. They’ve played in two World Series, won both, and both times in six games, for a winning percentage of .667. For the record….the Boston Red Sox are second, at .616.

4. Cesar Geronimo of the Cincinnati Reds was the 3,000th strikeout for two pitchers – Bob Gibson (July 17, 1974) and Nolan Ryan (July 4, 1980).

5. Only two people – Paul Molitor and Ichiro Suzuki – have reached the 3,000 hit plateau with a triple.

6. Cincinnati pitcher Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell made the National League All-Star team six consecutive years (1946-51)….and finished with only 82 wins in his career. Arm injuries forced him out in his prime.

7. Were it not for a scorer’s decision, Roberto Clemente could have finished with 3,001 hits. The day before he reached 3,000, it was believed that he had beaten out an infield single, but the official scorer ruled it an error.

8. Several Hall of Famers go or went by their middle name – George Kenneth “Ken” Griffey, Jr., Henry Louis “Lou” Gehrig, George Thomas “Tom” Seaver, and the all-time strikeout leader, Lynn Nolan Ryan.

9. Although the St. Louis Cardinals have won eleven world championships, they have never won two in a row (they came close, winning the title in 1942, 1944, and 1946, and losing in 1943). By contrast, the Reds, Giants, and archrival Cubs have done so in the NL.

10. Related to the previous post – eight of the Cardinals’ eleven championships have come in seven games. And surprisingly, they have a losing record in the World Series, despite all those titles – 58 wins and 60 losses (related to winning percentage, they’re in thirteenth place on the list, trailing the Angels, Marlins, and Diamondbacks, and even their archrivals in Kansas City).

11. Bobby Mathews holds the record for most wins without wining 300 games. He won 297, playing mostly in the 19th century. He’s never come all that close to the Hall of Fame.

12. Stan Musial got 3,630 hits in his career – 1,815 at home, and 1,815 on the road.

13. When he wasn’t in trouble, Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain (the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season) was an accomplished pipe organ player and even released a studio album of him playing organ tunes.

14. Also related to post-career baseball jobs, Lou Gehrig worked as a policeman before dying of ALS, and Curt Flood became a reasonable portrait painter.

15. Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield are uncle and nephew, respectively.

16. Red Sox outfielder Earl Webb set a record in 1931 – most doubles in a season, with 67.

17. The 1962 Mets set a record for most losses in the twentieth century – 120. They acquired a catcher named Harry Chiti from Cleveland in exchange for a player to be named later. One month later, Chiti was sent back to Cleveland as the player to be named later – in essence, he was traded for himself.

18. Cleveland power-hitting outfielder Rocky Colavito once had a clause in his contract that he would receive $5,000 bonus if he hit fewer than 35 home runs in a season. Churlish GM Frank Lane thought Colavito could cut down on his strikeouts (which weren’t that many for a power hitter) by shortening his swing.

19. Only three native French-Canadians ever played for the Montreal Expos – Derek Aucoin, Denis Boucher, and Claude Raymond. Boucher also is one of only four native Canadians to play for both Canadian teams – the others being Matt Stairs, Rob Ducey, and Shawn Hill.

20. When the Braves were in Boston, they played in spacious Braves Field. Center field was approximately 525 feet away. It took seven years from its opening (1915) for any player to hit the ball over the fence. Its location is currently used by the Boston University baseball team.

21. In a spring training game, Minnesota’s Denard Span once hit a foul ball that struck his own mother in the face.

22. Speaking of Minnesota, the Metrodome was known for its impractical design. In the mid 1980s, opposing batter Dave Kingman once got a ground-rule double after hitting a fly ball that never came down. There was an opening of less than two inches, and somehow, Kingman found it.

23. In May 1975, there was a strange contest between two men – Houston’s Bob Watson scored from second base on a home run by Milt May in San Francisco. As it turned out, he was credited with scoring the one millionth run in MLB history, beating out Cincinnati’s Dave Concepcion (playing at home) by a mere four seconds.

24. Wilbur Wood of the Chicago White Sox is the most recent pitcher to start both games of a doubleheader.

25. In a Twins-Red Sox game at Fenway on July 17, 1990, Minnesota third baseman Gary Gaetti started two triple plays in the same game…and the Red Sox still won the game, 1-0.

26. If the San Francisco Giants win 49 games this year (which seems incredibly likely), they’ll be the first MLB team to win 11,000 games in the regular season.

27. George Brett is the only player to win the batting title in three separate decades – 1976, 1980, and 1990.

28. Red Sox outfielder Lou Clinton (approximately 1961 or so) suffered an embarrassing moment. Cleveland’s Vic Power hit a fly ball that hit off the top of the fence, but stayed in play. Clinton was running to play the carom, but the ball took an odd bounce. It hit Clinton’s foot and bounced over the fence. Because it had never touched the ground, it was ruled a home run.

29. No Colorado Rockies pitcher has ever won 20 games in a season, largely due to its high altitude. Ubaldo Jimenez came the closest, winning 19 games in 2010. Their career leader in wins is Jorge de la Rosa, with 73.

30. You may not recognize his name, but Ross Barnes of the Cubs hit the first home run ever in the National League in 1876. The first credited American League home run was in 1901 by Cleveland’s Ervin Beck.

Dutch practice again

If any native Dutch and/or Flemish speakers read this, please correct my mistakes.

Dag opnieuw, iedereen. Nu heb ik net thuis van het werk. Ik ging eruit van 21 uur. Ik denk dat ik een geode werknemer ben. Later zal ik avondeten maken. Ik hou van pasta, melk, fruiten, en groenten, maar niet flees. Ook, ik verzonden een briefje want ik zou tenslotte een Belgische burger worden. Wens mij geluk, alstublieft. Als ik kan niet burgerschap krijgen, ik kan op zijn minst proberen en opnieuw te bezoeken. Ik weet dat het is heel moelijk om werk te finden want ik ben Amerikaan. Maar ik ben hoopvol. Wij zullen zien. In de tussentijd, ik ga nu. Slapwel, iedereen. Tot de volgende keer.  

1962 FIFA World Cup: Chile

A global phenomenon was probably born in 1958, both with the team and the player. But starting the 1960s, defense would begin ruling the day. But the Cup continued, and after one superstar player succumbed to injury, his teammate had his moment in the sun. Just like Just Fontaine four years before, this player – Garrincha – came from the depths of obscurity to stardom, but just as quickly, his spotlight faded. Chile would also come into its own, although not necessarily for the right reasons.

Image result for 1962 fifa world cup logo
(The 1962 FIFA World Cup logo. Photo courtesy of http://www.worldcupbrazil.net

1962 FIFA World Cup
May 30-June 17

Host: Chile 

Champion: Brazil 
Runner Up: Czechoslovakia 
Third Place: Chile 
Fourth Place: Yugoslavia 

Leading scorer(s): Flórián Albert (Hungary); Garrincha (Brazil); Valentin Ivanov (Soviet Union); Drazan Jerkovic (Yugoslavia); Leonel Sanchez (Chile); Garrincha (Brazil) – 4 goals apiece

Analysis
CONMEBOL (the South American football confederation) was threatening to boycott the World Cup altogether if the Cup were not returned to South America, following two consecutive times being hosted by Europe. FIFA relented, and for a while, Argentina held the inside track. Chile was asked to enter largely as a way to have a competing bid. But at the nominations process in Helsinki in 1952 (Helsinki was hosting the Summer Olympics at the time), several Chilean executives began pitching their country as an alternative. They argued that Argentina didn’t have the infrastructure and history to be a viable host. Led by chairmen Carlos Dittborn and Juan Pinto Duran, the Chilean bid ended up winning 32 votes to 11 in a shocking upset.

Even then, it almost didn’t happen. On May 22, 1960, the town of Valdivia was hit with a 9.5 magnitude earthquake. It remains the most powerful earthquake ever recorded by the Richter scale. The Chilean delegation appealed to FIFA to let them keep hosting duties, because they argued they had nothing left. FIFA complied.

Image result for 1960 chile earthquake
(Here is a picture of some of the rubble left over from the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, the largest one in recorded history. Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica.) 

Still, several would-be host cities, including Valdivia, Concepcion, Talca, and Talcahuano, were so badly damaged that they couldn’t maintain their stadiums. Two others withdrew for financial reasons. In the end, only four cities would host the games: Viña del Mar, Rancagua, Arica, and the capital city of Santiago. The show went on.

Qualification 
The format retained the previous Cup’s format: 16 teams, with the host and defending champions automatically qualifying. Teams earned two points for a win and one point for a draw. But a new change was coming – for the first time, goal average would determine who advanced. No more tiebreaker games in the group stage. As a result, teams began  focusing on defense. Many fans never forgave FIFA for this.

Two teams secured qualification for the first time. In South America, Colombia finally broke through after a win and a draw in a two-leg playoff with Peru. With Chile qualifying automatically as host and Brazil as defending champions, South America had only two other spots available. Argentina beat Ecuador easily, 11-3 on aggregate. Following a 1-1 draw between Bolivia and Uruguay, it would be the Uruguayans qualifying with a 2-1 win at home in Montevideo.

The other first-time team to qualify did so in a major upset. France had finished in third place in Sweden ’58, but had to play a one-game playoff with an upstart team from Bulgaria in a neutral-site game in Milan, Italy. Shockingly, the Bulgarians knocked out France 1-0. The decisive goal was scored by midfielder Dimitar Yakimov (47′). He would score nine goals in 67 caps for Bulgaria, but he never had a bigger goal than this one. (I can’t find a good photo of him to post, unfortunately.)

Elsewhere in UEFA, West Germany won all four games over Northern Ireland to advance easily, and despite losing many of their stars from 1954, Hungary was primed for one last run. Mainstay Lajos Tichy scored (80′) in Budapest on October 22, 1961, to secure a 3-3 draw with The Netherlands, after falling behind 0-2 in the first fifteen minutes. Twelve years later, the Dutch would revolutionize the game on their own.

Like France, another top four finisher would be out. Belgium lost all four games in Group 1, and a one-game playoff between Switzerland and Sweden saw the Swiss win 2-1 in West Berlin, mere months after the building of the Berlin Wall. Charles Antenen was the one to put them through with a goal in the 76th minute.

Image result for charles antenen
(Charles Antenen sent Switzerland into the World Cup with the winning goal. Photo courtesy of Sports Buddha Temple of Football.) 

Spain seemed to be a dominant team, getting Ferenc Puskás after he left Hungary. Also in that team was Alfredo di Stefano (although born in Buenos Aires), one of UEFA’s best players for Real Madrid. Sadly, Puskás was past his prime, and an injury forced di Stefano out, leaving him as arguably the best ever player who never got to play in the World Cup. And it was sad but true – di Stefano never officially played a game in the Cup.

Image result for alfredo di stefano spain
(Despite his heroism for Real Madrid, Argentina and then for Spain, Alfredo di Stefano never played in the World Cup. Photo courtesy of Inside Spanish Football.) 

The Soviet Union beat Turkey and Norway to sweep their way into the Cup; England won three and drew once to get in as well. The Soviets were led by the first true high-profile goalkeeper, Lev Yashin of club team Dynamo Moscow. Yashin was a two-pack-a-day chain smoker, originally played ice hockey, and was nicknamed “The Man in Black” because he refused to dress in any other color when on the pitch. But Yashin was a revolutionary. No longer would they be seen as buffoons or the last line of defense. Thanks to Yashin, some teams now featured the goalkeeper as their star player. How good was Yashin? One year after the World Cup, 1963, he became the only goalkeeper to ever win European Player of the Year.

Image result for Lev Yashin in action
(Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union became the World Cup’s first superstar goalkeeper. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

Group 7 had a five-team playoff, which Italy won over Israel 10-2 in a two-legged playoff. Czechoslovakia beat Scotland 4-2 in a playoff in Brussels, scoring twice in extra time. Spain and Yugoslavia advanced to playoffs with CAF (Africa) and AFC (Asia)teams, with Spain advancing over Morocco, and Yugoslavia over South Korea. After surviving their qualifying round, Mexico beat Paraguay in a playoff for the final spot.

Qualification was now set. But during the lead-up to the World Cup, two Italian journalists ventured into Santiago, and had nothing positive to say about it. In fact, hyperbole was on full force – I won’t post the comments, but look up the “Battle of Santiago” Wikipedia page for more information (slight spoiler alert). Whether by accident or design, the two were drawn together into Group 2.

The competition 
Group 1 
The four teams in this group were Uruguay, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Colombia, with all games played in Arica. On May 30, The underdog Colombians actually took an early lead (19′) on a penalty kick by Francisco Zuluaga. They held that lead into halftime. But after Luis Cubilla tied it (56′), Uruguay got  late goal with about fifteen minutes to go from Jose Sasia. Colombia was unable to come up with an equalizer. The next day, Yashin led the Soviets to a 2-0 victory over Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavians got back into it when they rallied from an early goal to beat Uruguay 3-1. The Soviet Union-Colombia game was a memorable one, ending in a 4-4 draw. It actually started off really poorly for the Colombians, falling behind 3-0 after only eleven minutes, including two goals from Valentin Ivanov in four minutes. German Aceros scored (21′) to put Colombia on the board, but Colombia still trailed 3-1 at the break. After Viktor Ponedelnik (56′) made it 4-1, many wrote the Colombians off. But they got back in it in spectacular fashion. Sixty-eight minutes in, Colombia won a corner kick. Midfielder Marcos Coll took the corner….and it went in untouched for a goal! It’s legal to score from a corner, but it’s very tough to do. Such a goal is known as a gol olimpico, or “Olympic goal.” Coll’s goal was the only time it ever happened in the World Cup. Coll himself only had eleven caps, but he scored five times in those eleven matches.

(Marcos Coll scores the only “gol olimpico” ever scored in the World Cup. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The Soviets quickly fell apart, and even Yashin seemed to be off form. Colombia rallied to score two more times, and earned a hard-fought draw. The Soviets had choked away a three-goal lead twice, and were fortunate to still earn a point.

In the final matches, the Soviets managed to overcome that match, beating Uruguay 2-1 with Ivanov hitting the winner only one minute from time, allowing the USSR to win the group. Yugoslavia took second after beating Colombia 5-0. Unfortunately, any momentum for Colombia quickly evaporated. They wouldn’t return until 1990.

Group 2
Hosts Chile beat Switzerland 3-1 in the opening game in Santiago, despite falling behind only six minutes in. One minute from halftime, Chile’s star player Leonel Sanchez equalized, and scored a second goal eleven minutes later. West Germany and Italy played to a scoreless draw, each earning a point.

June 2, 1962 was a notorious day in the World Cup. Following the bad blood between the Italians and Chileans in the build up, English referee Ken Aston was hoping for a calm game. He wouldn’t get it. In fact, it would be a match of carnage. Because many of the games were only on tape delay, BBC broadcaster David Coleman led in the highlights of the match with a piece of commentary that became legendary at Cups to come.

“Good evening. The game you are about to see is the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.”

In what became known as the “Battle of Santiago,” the first foul occurred within the first twelve seconds of the kickoff. Aston let several fouls go, before controversy came in the twelfth minute. Chile’s Honorino Landa, one day after his 20th birthday, was fouled hard by Giorgio Ferrini. Aston sent him off the field – except Ferrini refused to leave. It got so bad that the Carabineros, the Chilean national police, were forced to escort Ferrini off the field.

Image result for battle of santiago world cup
(Giorgio Ferrini is forcibly removed from the field by Chile’s police force. Photo courtesy of http://www.kenaston.org.) 

Several minutes later, Landa punched an Italian player, but Aston ignored it this time. About twenty minutes later, Leonel Sanchez and Italy’s Mario David scuffled. Sanchez, the son of a champion amateur boxer, sucker-punched David in the face. Aston ignored it again. Italy was furious, particularly when David roundhouse kicked Sanchez in the head in retaliation and Aston sent him off. It was nil-nil at halftime.

Later in the match, Sanchez threw another punch that broke the nose of Italy’s Humberto Maschio. Again, Aston let it slide. While no other players were sent off, the two teams kicked, spit, and gouged each other for the rest of the match. Lost in the violence is the fact that Chile broke through twice through Jaime Ramirez (73′) and Jorge Toro (87′). Chile won 2-0, but even the scoreline is largely forgotten. Largely due to the language barrier, Aston couldn’t control the players. Driving back to the hotel later that day, he stopped at a traffic light. He realized that the color coding was perfect. Yellow meant slow down. Red meant stop. Although they wouldn’t be introduced until 1970, Aston had a moment of genius – yellow and red cards were born. No longer would a language barrier hold the referees back.

(Highlights of the infamous “Battle of Santiago” between Chile-Italy, including David Coleman’s lead-in. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The following day, West Germany won 2-1 over Switzerland, eliminating the latter team from the knockout stages. The Germans won 2-0 over Chile and Italy beat 3-0 over Switzerland in the final group matches, including a goal from Bruno Mora less than sixty seconds in. Still, it wasn’t enough to get them through. West Germany won the group with five points, and Chile earned four to advance to the quarterfinals.

Group 3 
Brazil looked poised to keep their title. They won easily 2-0 over Mexico in the first match, Pelé scoring the second one after Mario Zagallo scoring the first. It was clear that without di Stefano, Spain was a beaten team. Czechoslovakia beat them 1-0 in the first game. In the second matches, Brazil and Czechoslovakia played to a scoreless draw. But Brazil paid a heavy price for it – Pelé was injured on a hard tackle and would be out for the rest of the Cup. Fortunately, another unheralded superstar was waiting in the wings. His name was Manuel Francisco dos Santos. But the fans knew him as Garrincha. Ironically, the nickname wasn’t considered a compliment; it meant “little wounded bird” in Portuguese. Garrincha was considered to have a learning disability, and almost died at birth due to a high fever. This left one leg shorter than the other, and they were also inverted in the wrong way. Still, this actually helped Garrincha’s dribbling skills. He would make his mark in the next match.

MFdSantos-Garrincha.jpg
(Like Just Fontaine in 1958, Garrincha became the underdog everybody loved to root for. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

Spain had beaten Mexico 1-0 in their group game, and took an early lead on the Brazilians in the final group match (Adelardo 35′). Brazil used Pelé’s replacement Amarildo to score the equalizer (72′). Only four minutes from time, Garrincha dribbled and faked around several Spanish defenders, getting into the box. He crossed the ball into Amarildo, who hit it with his head. Goal! Garrincha’s perfect pass had set up the game winner. Brazil won 2-1 to win the group. Despite Mexico beating Czechoslovakia 3-1 (Mexico getting their first win in the World Cup), the losers still progressed, sending Spain and Mexico home.

(Garrincha makes a great pass to Amarildo, who scored the winner versus Spain. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Group 4
Argentina looked to finally solidify its destiny with a 1-0 victory over Bulgaria. The decisive blow came in the fourth minute. Hungary edged out England 2-1, with Flórián Albert scoring the winner (71′)  for the Hungarians. In what would be the beginning of a classic and bitter rivalry, England then faced off against Argentina. This time, England won 3-1. The Three Lions opened the scoring with a Ron Flowers penalty (17′). Three minutes before halftime, Bobby Charlton scored one of his own. Known almost as much for his notorious comb-over as for his play, he’d be a stalwart for England four years later when they won the whole thing (and win the Ballon d’Or that same year). Another star, Jimmy Greaves, added a third in the second half. Argentina got one back in the final ten minutes, but it was too little, too late. It would prove to be crucial for England for their goal average.

Image result for bobby charlton england
(The balding Bobby Charlton scored to help England defeat Argentina to help them in the group stage. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Hungary ran over Bulgaria in their game, 6-1. Albert had a hat trick, and by the time fifteen minutes had passed, Bulgaria trailed 4-0 (two of Albert’s goals came in the first six minutes). Lajos Tichy added two more of his own, before Georgi Sokolov (64′) managed one for Bulgaria, their first World Cup goal ever. But otherwise, it was a disaster for the Bulgarians.

Both of the final matches – Hungary-Argentina and England-Bulgaria – ended in scoreless draws. Now these games were becoming the norm. Bulgaria had their first point, and it was a crucial match for Argentina. They would miss out on the quarterfinals after that critical loss to England. The Three Lions were runner up and Hungary had its last great moment in the World Cup, taking the group.

Quarterfinals 
The host Chileans faced off against USSR in Arica. Unfortunately, Lev Yashin had one bad game. Not even he was immune to them. Leonel Sanchez scored in the 11th minute to give Chile an early lead. The Soviets tied the score (26′) through Igor Chislenko. But three minutes later, Eladio Rojas scored the winner to send the hosts into the semifinals. Yashin’s heroics would have to wait.

If there was a great keeper in the tournament, it was Czechoslovakia’s Viliam Schrojf. He came up with several big saves for them in the quarterfinal against Hungary. Adolf Scherer’s goal (13′) sent Czechoslovakia through.

Viliam Schrojf 1962.jpg
(Czechoslovakia advanced thanks to the superb play of goalkeeper Viliam Schrojf. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

(Highlights of the Czechoslovakia-Hungary quarterfinal. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Garrincha scored two times against England, and another goal from another star, Vavá, helped Brazil advance with a 3-1 victory. Many consider it the finest game Garrincha ever played. The Yugoslavians upset West Germany when Petar Radakovic scored five minutes before time.

(Garrincha in action against England. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Semifinals
The two South American countries faced off, Brazil and Chile in Santiago. Both Garrincha and Vavá had a brace, and despite a goal from Sanchez, the hosts would be forced to settle for the third place match, falling 4-2. Garrincha and Chile’s Landa were both sent off. However, in a controversial move, Brazil appealed to FIFA, and he was reinstated for the final.

(Highlights of the Brazil-Chile semifinal. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

In the other final in Viña del Mar between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, the game ended scoreless in the first half. But just three minutes into the second half, Josef Kadraba made it 1-0 Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia equalized the score (69′) through Dražan Jerković, but it wouldn’t be enough. But Scherer scored twice in the last ten minutes, including once from the penalty spot.

Image result for adolf scherer semifinal
(Two goals from Adolf Scherer against Yugoslavia sent the Czechoslovakians into the finals. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

Third place game 
The third place game took place on June 16 in Santiago. Although it was an exciting game, it looked like it would head to extra time. But in the final minute, Eladio Rojas scored the winner to give Chile a 1-0 victory. The hosts overcame tragedy to finish with bronze.

Image result for eladio rojas goal
(Eladio Rojas scored the winner to give Chile third place. Photo courtesy of http://www.planetworldcup.com.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObOgFW4qOF0
(Highlights of the third place game. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Final 
Santiago’s Estadio Nacional hosted the final one day later. Many weren’t sure whether Garrincha would make the most of his reprieve. Although Czechoslovakia kept him in check, they forgot the others. At first, it looked like the Brazilians would get off to another slow start. Midfielder Josef Masopust made it 0-1 for the Czechoslovakians (15′). But Brazil would rally. Two minutes later, Amarildo had tied the score, on a rare error by Schrojf. That 1-1 scoreline held up at scoreline. Both teams had their chances.

Ultimately, the Brazilians proved that even without Pelé, they had the best team. Zito scored in the 69th minute to give Brazil the lead for good. Nine minutes later, Vavá added the comfort goal to make it 3-1 Brazil after another uncharacteristic error by the goalkeeper, fumbling the ball and allowing a rebound. Neither team really had a chance again. Brazil had defended their title. And the little bird was singing a song of joy along with his teammates.

(Highlights of the 1962 final. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Image result for 1962 fifa world cup final
(Vavá celebrates his insurance goal in the final. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

Image result for 1962 fifa world cup final
(The victorious Brazilians line up before the final. Photo courtesy of http://www.worldcupbrazil.net.) 

Fun Facts 
Czechoslovakia set an unwanted record – twice they made the final, and both times they scored first. Both times, they still lost the game (1934 to Italy and 1962 to Brazil).

Six players served as co-leading scorers with four goals.

This was the first time that the average number of goals was under 3 per game. It was listed at 2.78, and has never been above 3 since.

The semifinal matches were supposed to have been played in the opposite cities from which they were played, but FIFA switched the venues unexpectedly.

During the Brazil-England quarterfinal, a dog ran onto the pitch and urinated on England player Jimmy Greaves. Many believe Garrincha took the dog home with him, but it was given a good home.

Sadly, Garrincha didn’t live to see fifty years old. He died at age 49 (in 1983) due to cirrhosis of the liver, which had been destroyed by alcoholism. The stadium in the capital city of Brasilia is named after him.

Although they failed to make the knockout stages, Italy began the shift towards defensive football with their invention of catenaccio, or “door bolt” in Italian, in the 1950s. Catenaccio created the role of the libero/sweeper, and was often used in a 5-3-2 formation, perfected by Helenio Herrera and Inter Milan in the 1960s. Ironically, the man who is credited with it was Karl Rappan, an Austrian.

Brazil became the only South American team to repeat, the second overall, and last to date.

Final Thoughts 
Brazil had done it without their star player. They looked invincible. And while Pelé would come back in ’66, he wouldn’t be able to carry his team. The team that invented the game was about to host it, and have arguably their moment of glory, that fifty years later remains the high water mark for the Three Lions.

References and Sources 
FIFA
ESPN FC
YouTube
Getty Images
Wikipedia
Sports Buddha Temple of Football
Inside Spanish Football
http://www.kenaston.org
http://www.planetworldcup.com
http://www.worldcupbrazil.net
Encyclopedia Britannica
FourFourTwo
World Cup’s 50 Greatest Moments
(BBC 3 documentary)
World Cup Heaven and Hell: The Divine and Damned (ITV documentary)
Soccer’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Clumsy Keepers, Clever Crosses, and Outlandish Oddities (John Snyder)
Soccer’s Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves, and Fantastic Free-Kicks (Jeff Carlisle)
¡Golazo! The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America (Andreas Campomar)
The ESPN World Cup Companion: Everything You Need to Know About the Planet’s Biggest Sports Event (David Hirshey, Roger Bennett)
The Mammoth Book of the World Cup (Nick Holt)

1,500 and counting

Heading into this month, I was very close to 1,500 view on this blog in just under three years (it started in April 2014). I’m very honored to have so many people check it out – eighteen countries, and at least one on all of the major continents. I am very honored and flattered to have reached this milestone. I hope this can be spread out to more countries across the world. If I ever get a chance to visit more places, I’m sure that it will expand. There’s a beauty in it that seems to be in short supply nowadays. But I won’t go into that.

Please keep reading, and it’s an honor to write for you. Thank you, gracias, merci, bedankt, danke, děkuji, obrigado, grazie, tusen takk. There are too many ways to say it. 🙂 Here’s to the next 1,500.

2017 MLB preview

Hello, everybody! Is everybody enjoying the Hot Stove (i.e. offseason)? We’re very close to four of the happiest words to any baseball fans: pitchers and catchers report. Here are my predictions.

American League 
East 
1. Boston Red Sox 
They’re losing Big Papi and traded Yoan Moncada, a potential ROY candidate for Chicago, but they’ve added Chris Sale to their pitching staff, and have kept Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and David Price. Their bullpen is steady, if not solid, and MVP runner up Mookie Betts seems primed to keep his run. If Dustin Pedroia can come back strong again, the Red Sox seem to be the favorites to take the East.
2. New York Yankees 
I think the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry gets back on track this year. I think Boston’s got the better lineup, but the Yankees have the better bullpen. If both teams make it to October, the bullpen will be a significant factor. Getting Aroldis Chapman back from the Cubs may help them provide an alternative in the vein of Mariano Rivera. With Gary Sanchez on the rise, this rivalry seems to be gaining steam again.
3. Toronto Blue Jays 
Losing Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland may hurt them significantly. And Jose Bautista is in the last season of his contract. They have a solid but not spectacular pitching staff, led by 20-game winner J.A. Happ. They may have one run in them this year, but I could see them start to decline for a few years after this, because they lost too much in too short of a time.
4. Baltimore Orioles 
Perhaps it’s a little controversial to place them low, but I see Baltimore as way too one-dimensional. They hit a lot of home runs and not much else. The problem with swinging for the fences is that it results in a lot of strikeouts, and if I remember correctly, they set a record as a team for stealing the fewest bases. In other words, they can’t play small ball to save their life. They have a clunky starting rotation (none of their primary starters had an ERA under 4.00), and closer Zach Britton is the one consistent pitcher they have. Additionally, ownership and fans had a strained relationship in 2016, which may hurt them as well. I’d love for the Orioles to prove me wrong, but to me, they need to get out of their own way first in order to do so.
5. Tampa Bay Rays 
Aside from Evan Longoria, the talent is pretty thin. Things look to be getting worse at Tropicana Field for a little bit.

Central 
1. Detroit Tigers
This is a very risky pick to make, I know. But there’s something in their pitching I like. Justin Verlander came back better than he’s been in a few years, and if 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer can stay healthy, I think they can make a deep run. Plus, they still have Miguel Cabrera. I think they have at least one more run in them, before sliding back a little bit. 2017 may be that year for the run.
2. Cleveland Indians 
The reigning AL champions added Edwin Encarnacion, and I think Terry Francona has done a fine job. Having come so close, you may wonder why I don’t have them higher than Detroit. I put it down largely to injuries in the pitching staff. It worked to Francona’s benefit in the playoffs last year, but at the same time, you can’t depend on it long term. Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor are rising stars, but if the injury bug does hit them, I think it will do it slowly and painfully.
3. Kansas City Royals 
Before the season has even started, they’re facing a tragedy, having lost Yordano Ventura in a car accident. Additionally, many players are free agents in the next few years. Is the front office willing to spend the money? I think they should have a winning record, but the Royals need to spend some money to stay closer to the top. Otherwise, the run of 2014-15 looks more and more like a fluke.
4. Chicago White Sox 
They acquired Yoan Moncada in a trade with Boston, and he looks like a ROY candidate. But that’s probably not enough to push them back up over the top. I think hiring Rick Renteria as manager is an encouraging sign, but they’ll be rebuilding for at least two more years.
5. Minnesota Twins 
Despite having a Hall of Famer – Paul Molitor – managing them, Minnesota lost 103 games last year, the worst in the Major Leagues. They are old, their pitching is shaky, and aside from Brian Dozier, they have no big superstars anymore. I think the Twins finish at the bottom again. They may be worse than last year, in fact.

West 
1. Houston Astros 
In a surprisingly underrated division, many people see the Astros coming back to the top. Carlos Correa has emerged as a potential MVP candidate, and Dallas Keuchel won the Cy Young Award in 2015. But they’ll have some major competition this year.
2. Texas Rangers 
Unfortunately, Texas has had the “choker” label applied to them a lot, and not unfairly, either. They’ll be in contention, but I think that label comes back to bite them in the end. They could be the very last team eliminated from playoff contention.
3. Seattle Mariners
Seattle looks better, and as of this writing, has the longest active playoff drought (15 years).  They don’t have a lot of superstars, and third place is kind of by default, but they gave the front-runners a good run for their money early in the season. They’ll need to improve their pitching staff in order to get back up, but the future looks bright in the Emerald City.
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 
They have Mike Scioscia and defending MVP Mike Trout, but it seems like many of their former superstars, like Albert Pujols, are past their primes (Pujols turned 37 on January 16). He’s probably a Hall of Famer, but how much time does he have left? I give him about three years.
5. Oakland Athletics
Billy Beane’s teams have always under-performed, and his “Moneyball” strategies are coming back to bite him. Other teams copied his style, and had better results, because they had more money. If Beane is going to make a splash in Oakland, the A’s have to spend the money.

Predictions 
Division winners: Boston, Detroit, Houston
Wild Card(s): New York, Cleveland
Potential Team on the Rise: Detroit Tigers
Potential Team on the Decline: Baltimore Orioles

AL Pennant Winner: Boston Red Sox

National League 
East 
1. Washington Nationals
So much of this will depend on whether Stephen Strasburg can stay healthy. If he can stay healthy, he’ll complement Max Scherzer (NL Cy Young winner). Still, there’s something that I can’t reconcile about manager Dusty Baker. He’s notorious for riding his starting pitchers hard, and has never seemed to be the brightest manager. Every manager has their moments, but Dusty’s always seem to come when it counts most.
2. New York Mets 
I think New York has enough pitching to rival Washington in the division. And Terry Collins has been a stable and somewhat effective manager. They need better offensive play from their catchers (Travis d’Arnaud had 15 RBI for the season, which even for a catcher is pretty awful). And their offense is getting old fast. Still, the talent in the division is somewhat thinner than usual, so it could help them, although not for long.
3. Miami Marlins
Losing Jose Fernandez in a boating accident is a big blow. They’ll be hosting the All-Star Game this year, so there will be a lot of eyes looking on them. Can they overcome that and have their first winning season in a while? Or will the ownership betray them again? It’s been a running joke throughout the last decade or so.
4. Philadelphia Phillies 
All of the roster from the 2008 title team has been gutted. Still, it looks like Philadelphia could be on the rise, and soon. But they’ll have to wait another couple of years, and they’re backlogged by the rest of the division for this year, and maybe next year as well. Still, there are encouraging signs.
5. Atlanta Braves 
Many people consider Dansby Swanson a favorite for Rookie of the Year. And a new stadium may give the Braves life, and they actually had a solid finish, winning 12 of their last 14. The problem was a 9-28 start into mid-May, so the beginning held them back at the end. Still, they didn’t have the worst record in the Majors, and were a half-game better for the worst record in the NL (68-93, two others at 68-94).

Central 
1. Chicago Cubs 
Defending champion Chicago Cubs. Many of my friends love that ring to it. And the scary part of it, the Cubs look to be better than last season. They added Wade Davis and Koji Uehara to the bullpen, and kept all the big pieces from last season, with the exception of Dexter Fowler. Many consider the Cubs favorites again, and if they hold on, they’d be the first NL team since the 1975-76 Reds to go back-to-back.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals took Dexter Fowler from their rivals, and have good pitching. But they’re probably still on the outside looking in. I could see them taking the Wild Card spot, but having to potentially face their rivals could be a long road back.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates 
Like the Phillies, Pittsburgh probably faces stiff competition. In other divisions, they’d probably be higher. There’s still a lot of talent, with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon anchoring the rotation. Their lineup looks a little thing, especially with Jung-ho Kang batting off-field issues. So, I think Pittsburgh hangs tough, but playoffs seem out of the question without a big acquisition.
4. Cincinnati Reds 
If Cincinnati could get rid of some of their players (i.e. Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart), they could improve. But the Reds have too many guys whose contracts don’t allow them to leave, including their one big star Joey Votto. It’s a little sad for Cincinnati – they have the resources, but not the right people to use them.
5. Milwaukee Brewers 
No big names equals no big expectations. I forgot about Milwaukee for most of the season, and there’s probably a reason for that.

West 
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 
If the Cubs don’t repeat in the NL, I see the Dodgers finally breaking through. Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in the league, and Dave Roberts won Manager of the Year last year. I like their chances to win the division for the fifth straight time. But now, they need to put it over the top.
2. San Francisco Giants 
The “even-numbered” streak fell apart in 2016, and the odd-numbered year one was unkind. I think it’ll be like that this year, too. Bruce Bochy is a great manager, but it seems like his roster has health concerns, and I wonder if that run is closer to ending. Plus, the team right behind them could be on the rise.
3. Colorado Rockies
I think the Rockies could really contend in 2017. Thin air usually leads to thin pitching, and this year seems to be no exception, and they collapsed in August and September last year. That said, I think they’re learning from experience. They acquired Ian Desmond as a free agent, and it looks like Greg Holland could be a solid closer in the Mile High City. Keep an eye out on these Rockies. It promises to be entertaining either way.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks 
Former manager Tony La Russa is in the front office, and they have Zack Greinke on the mound. But the rest of the talent is spread thin, and new manager Torey Lovullo probably faces an uphill.
5. San Diego Padres 
Wil Meyers is their one star, and that’s it. It’s going to suck in San Diego this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have the worst record in the league this year.

Division Winners: Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles
Wild Card(s): New York, St. Louis
Potential Team on the Rise: Colorado Rockies
Potential Team on the Decline: Washington Nationals

NL Pennant Winner: Chicago Cubs

World Series: Toss-up

30 moments in 30 years

Parlaying off the previous list, where I was inspired by a friend to create a list of 35 things I’d like to do before I turned 35, here’s a similar list: the 30 most favorite moments of my life so far, now being almost 30 years old.

These will be in reverse chronological order, based on how memorable they were to me. Dates should be as accurate as possible.

30. Seeing the Red Sox win their third title – the “Boston Strong” title (October 2013)
29. Writing an academic paper that was very nearly published (May 2011)
28. Winning a H-O-R-S-E competition at the YMCA (Winter 1997)
27. Seeing the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl (January 2007)
26. Doing volunteer work for a week with IUBeginnings (August 2007)
25. Visiting Disney World with my mom, brother, and aunt (March 2000)
24. Doing a drawing that is hanging in the halls of my elementary school (June 2000)
23. Celebrating an awesome 13th birthday party with various friends (June 2000)
22. Seeing various parts of England for the first time (August 2010)
21. Winning a Little League baseball championship (Summer 1996)
20. Making my stage debut in Mass by Leonard Bernstein (April 1998)
19. Moving into my first apartment (August 2012)
18. Having one of my plays I wrote performed at a festival (February 2011)
17. Going to my first MLB game with my dad for my birthday (June 1993)
16. Navigating whitewater rapids in North Carolina (Spring 1999)
15. Making the spring musical, The Fantasticks (March 2005)
14. Attending my ten-year high school reunion (December 2016)
13. Directing 12 Angry Jurors, my full-length directorial debut (July 2014)
12. Finding my first job at the Office of Orientation (Summer 2007)
11. Being inducted into National Society and National French Honor Society (Spring 2005)
10. Singing “Hit the Road Jack” to close my high school’s Cabaret during my last year (March 2006)
9. Having my first serious relationship (May 2006-October 2007)
8. Meeting two of my best friends, Dave and Andi,  within a year of each other (Fall 1994 and Fall 1995)
7. Living overseas for a semester as a child (January-August 1994)
6. Visiting France twice in the course of a year; once with parents and once on an exchange trip (July 2004 and March 2005)
5. Performing a solo at Indiana Vocal Jazz Ensemble All-State (January 2006)
4. Visiting Boston with my dad, seeing Fenway Park and other attractions, and being the one to plan the trip (July 2016)
3. Seeing the Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in 86 years (October 2004)
2. Becoming an uncle twice (June 2010 and March 2012)
1. Graduating from college with two B.A. degrees (May 2011)

Slaying the fox

Aside from soccer, Belgium’s best sport has always been cycling. In fact, there’s more of a rivalry with the Netherlands in cycling. Many Dutch writers have said that more kids from north of the Rhine River traditionally play soccer, and more from the south side of the river do cycling.

While it may not have as high of a profile in America, watch a cycling race from beginning to end. Just over four years ago, I went to Louisville with my dad, my cousin, and his girlfriend to cheer on the Belgians and Americans at the UCI Cyclocross championships, the first time it was ever held outside of Europe. Imagine cycling on a motocross course, with mud, asphalt, snow, stairs, and numerous other obstacles. That year, wily veteran Sven Nys, at age 37, took his second world title for the Belgians, winning gold with countryman Klaus Vantournhout winning silver. Sure enough, Lars van den Haar of the Netherlands finished third. While America got onto the podium in the women’s race with Katie Compton taking silver, Belgium’s reigning bronze medalist Sanne Cant couldn’t handle the course and finished a disappointing eighteenth place in 2013. It became a part of the narrative – something would happen in the closing laps of the race and she would be overtaken.

Coming into the 2017 race in Bieles, Luxembourg, Cant had won silver two years earlier and bronze the year before. She had always been compared to arguably the greatest woman cyclist ever, Netherlands’ Marianne Vos. (This posts title has two meanings: “Vos” is the Dutch word for fox, and it’s a reference to the cycling rivalry between America’s Greg LeMond and France’s Bernard “Badger” Hinault in the 1980s at the Tour de France; as a result, a fantastic book called Slaying the Badger was written about the two men). Coming into the race, Vos had won seven UCI world championships (six consecutively from 2009-14), and a gold medal in London in the road race. Like famous Belgian rider Eddy Merckx, she is nicknamed “The Cannibal” for her attacking style. In short, she is to women’s road cycling what Michael Jordan was to the NBA in the ’90s. Frustratingly, Cant had come up short against her on her home turf in 2012 (held on the Belgian coastal town of Koksijde). Vos had slowed a step or two since 2014, but was still the dominant force.

I’m a week late writing this. January 29, 2017 was a race for the ages in the women’s road races. The weather had unexpectedly warmed up during the week, so certain stretches of the course were opened early because they would have been too slippery otherwise. As mud caked down the track, Vos and Cant put on a show for the fans. Cant’s fellow Belgian rider Ellen Van Loy sped out of the block, but couldn’t maintain the pace, ultimately finishing in eighth place. The rivalry was in full force on the track; for a while, Vos had the upper hand. Many Belgian supporters felt devastated when Cant crashed on the second-to-last lap. It looked like she may be left out again. But despite tearing the sole of her shoe open, Sanne Cant persevered.

Vos led much of the last lap, as Cant tried to catch her. Coming into the final lap, two other riders were within striking distance around a corner – Vos’ countrywoman Lucinda Brand and Katerina Nash of the Czech Republic. At the race I went to in 2013, Nash had missed out on bronze in heartbreaking fashion, with her chain jamming mere meters from the finish line, and was overtaken as she tried to use her feet to desperately push herself across the line. Vos had seized the initiative. But like Nash in 2013, she ran into mechanical problems, catching her chain around a corner. Just like that, Cant was in the lead.

The two riders traded the lead back and forth for several minutes – the apparent heiress to the throne, and the queen herself. Parts of the race force riders to dismount and push or carry their bikes up the hill. Coming down that corner, Vos was slightly ahead. Cant used her foot to slow down coming down the hill. The two riders went into a straightaway, before Vos couldn’t slow momentum down fast enough and bounced just slightly off a sponsor’s rail. Taking the inside track, Cant caught Vos. The two rode up the hill, with Cant maintaining a slight lead. The final push went onto an asphalt road, with Vos’ front wheel right on the back wheel of Cant. Less than 100 meters from the finish line, the two broke into a sprint…and in the end of the day, the fox couldn’t catch her prey. Belgian announcers called out, “Zij wint! Zij wint!” (“She wins! She wins!”). After having 29 gold medalists in the men’s elite race, Belgium finally had its first woman champion. Cant threw up her arms, rode around the corner, and fell on the ground in tears of joy. Once again, those beautiful sky blue jerseys would be on top of the podium. Vos took second, the look of disappointment evident on her face. Nash would take bronze, Brand fourth, Van Loy eighth, and American Katelyn Antonneau tenth. But for Sanne Cant, a twenty-year-old dream was now a reality. (Belgian Wout Van Aert won his second consecutive race in the men’s elite race, and countryman Kevin Pauwels took bronze.)

Image result for sanne cant world champion
(At long last, Sanne Cant outlasts Marianne Vos to win the gold medal for Belgium at the 2017 UCI women’s elite race world championship in cyclocross. Photo courtesy of Cyclocross Magazine.) 

Cant finally put on the rainbow jersey at the championships. It’s hers to keep for a whole year. While I understand about America’s obsession with other sports, I never understood why we didn’t get into cycling as much. I challenge my friends in the states to watch a race from beginning to end. It’s exhilarating. And just like all other sports, it has its own great stories.

Image result for sanne cant gold medal
(Surrounded by silver medalist – and seven-time world champion – Marianne Vos on the left, and bronze medalist Katerina Nash on the right, Sanne Cant puts on the champion’s jersey and gold medal. Photo courtesy of Cyclocross Magazine.) 

Sources
Wikipedia
Cyclocross Magazine 
Slaying the Badger: Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, and the Greatest Tour de France (Richard Moore) 

35 before 35 – a list

This was inspired by my friend and frequent theatre collaborator Sarah, who came up with a list of 35 things she’d like to go before the age of 35. And so, both to try to expand my horizons and to help the reality of turning 30 years old sink in, here’s my list.

35 things I’d like to do before age 35:

1. Celebrate five years at a job
2. Find and keep a romantic relationship
3. Go back to Europe, both to places I’ve already been and places I’ve never been
4. Go to the west coast of the U.S.
5. Do more volunteer work
6. Stress out less and enjoy the moment more
7. See more of the world
8. Drop at least 40 pounds.
9. Expand my diet
10. Do the Newport Cliff Walk in Newport, RI
11. Take an organized travel tour
12. Score at least ten goals in pickup soccer with my dad
13. Improve my hand-eye coordination
14. Submit an idea for a TEDtalk
15. Read more fiction – it’s largely sports books/travel guides/other non-fiction at this point
16. Learn how to properly tie a tie
17. Write some more poetry
18. Play more basketball
19. Work on becoming an autism advocate  
20. Find a pen pal overseas
21. Learn more languages, preferably something lesser-known (e.g. Czech)
22. Consider taking the GRE
23. Pay all my own bills
24. Create a photo album
25. Build more Legos
26. Emerge from my social anxiety bubble  
27. Participate in an autism expert panel (technically, I’ve already done this, but still)
28. Get out more in summer
29. Organize a social gathering
30. Sing more karaoke
31. Look into a self-defense class
32. Visit Acadia National Park
33. Be the best friend
34. And family member
35. And person that I know how to be