Monthly Archives: March 2017

Ode to Mediocrity: 1962 Mets

So, with the baseball season right around the corner (less than a week away!), here is an ode to some of the worst teams to ever play the game. Our first team is probably the poster child for this very idea: the 1962 New York Mets.

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(The 1962 New York Mets. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

After the Dodgers and Giants had left New York for California, businessman William Shea and longtime innovator Branch Rickey threatened to start a rival league called the Continental League in hopes of forcing a National League team back in New York. MLB relented, and announced that each league would expand for the first time.

Along with the Houston Colt .45s (later renamed the Astros), the New York Mets would be born in 1962. They had the Polo Grounds, the old stadium of the New York Giants, and the former manager of the Yankees, Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel, now 72 years old. Perhaps Stengel knew what was coming when he said it was an honor to be joining the “Knickerbockers.”

With the season expanding to 162 games, the Mets ended up having two rained out. They set a record for the most losses in the twentieth century, 40 wins and 120 losses. No other team has lost 120 since (the 2003 Detroit Tigers lost 119).

The Mets were a group of has-beens and never-will-bes. They acquired a catcher named Harry Chiti from Cleveland for a player to be named later. One month later, after being awful in spring training, Chiti was sent back to Cleveland as the player to be named later! He was the first MLB player ever traded for himself.

One of the catchers they did use was Clarence “Choo-Choo” Coleman. While Stengel praised him for getting to wild pitches quickly, that wasn’t necessarily a compliment. Coleman couldn’t remember the signs, and it got so bad that many coaches wanted to paint his fingers in different colors to help him. He also called everybody “Bub” because he couldn’t remember their names. Broadcaster Ralph Kiner once asked Coleman: “Tell us about your wife. What’s her name, and what’s she like?” Coleman replied, “Well, Bub, her name is Mrs. Coleman. And she likes me.” Outfielder Charlie Neal once asked Coleman if he recognized him. “Sure. You’re number four.”

Perhaps the best symbol of futility was “Marvelous” Marvin Throneberry. The nickname “Marvelous” was an ironic one, as Throneberry was terrible. He couldn’t hit, couldn’t run, and couldn’t field. Other than that, he was doing fine. The most famous story was that he once thought he hit a triple against the Chicago Cubs. However, he was called out for missing first base. Stengel came out to argue, but the umpire said he missed second base as well. Stengel said: “Well, I know he didn’t miss third base. He’s standing on it!” Speaking of the Cubs, they were the only team not to have a winning record against the Mets in 1962. They finished 9-9.

My favorite story involves shortstop Elio Chacon of Caracas, Venezuela. Described as “eager, but not very talented,” he came close time and time again with colliding with center fielder Richie Ashburn on pop flies.  Ashburn was approaching retirement and wanted one last year in the sun. The problem was that neither one spoke the other’s language. Finally, a bilingual teammate named Joe Christopher told Ashburn to say “I’ve got it” in Spanish – “yo lo tengo.” Christopher explained it to Chacon as well, and Chacon and Ashburn seemed to understand each other. One day, a fly ball came, and Chacon raced out to try to catch it. At the top of his lungs, Ashburn called out “¡Yo lo tengo!” as loud as he could. Chacon backed off. Ashburn finally seemed ready to catch the fly ball – and then left fielder Frank Thomas (no relation to the Hall of Famer of the same name) crashed into him and the ball dropped. Thomas had no idea what was going on.

Still, the Mets made baseball fun for many fans. Writer Roger Angell hinted that they drew more fans than the Yankees because winning was becoming boring, and the Mets were more of an allegory for life. The fans blew horns and held placards, something unthinkable in Yankee Stadium (they hadn’t make the connection with marketing yet). Stengel even admitted that he forgot to take pitchers out because he himself was reading the signs.

Ultimately, the new New York NL team was a disaster. Stengel was washed up, and they were in Shea Stadium in 1964. Fortunately, they managed to win the World Series through the “Miracle Mets” in 1969, overcoming 100:1 odds at the start of the season. While the Mets have won only twice, the 1962 Mets made baseball realize that the fan was important. Besides, they were a first year team – so how bad could they be, really?

References and Sources
Baseball Reference
Wikipedia
Getty Images
http://www.funtrivia.com
http://www.detroit.tigers.mlb.com
Baseball (Ken Burns documentary)
The Baseball Hall of Shame: The Best of Blooperstown (Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo)
Wrigleyville (Peter Golenbock)

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1970 FIFA World Cup: Mexico

Following a successful, if controversial, hosting campaign, England was now the defending champion. But with many in the world still not willing to play nice with them (fairly or not), a target was now on their backs. But major changes were coming to the World Cup – namely, TV broadcasts (and in color!), and perhaps the finest team ever to show up at the world’s biggest sporting event took one last bow.

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(The FIFA ’70 Mexico logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

1970 FIFA World Cup 
May 31-June 21 

Host: Mexico 

Champion: Brazil 
Runner Up: Italy 
Third Place: West Germany 
Fourth Place: Uruguay 

Leading scorer: Gerd Müller, West Germany (10 goals) 

Analysis
Perhaps some eyebrows were raised when Mexico was named as host of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. While various other nations such as Peru and Japan were considered, only Argentina put in a competing bid officially. In 1964 in Tokyo, Mexico easily won the bid. But El Tri had never had a lot of success on the world stage – they had never made it out of the group stage up to that point. But in the end, it was the right choice – many considered the 1970 Cup the finest ever played.

Qualification 
Hosts Mexico and champions England automatically qualified. The same format remained – sixteen teams in four groups. For the first time, Africa had a guaranteed spot in the finals. And that first qualifying spot went to the “Atlas Lions” of Morocco. Both the Democratic Republic of the Congo (who would change their name to Zaire one year later, and then change it back in 1997) and Guinea were scheduled to compete, but FIFA rejected their applications. Ghana received an automatic bid for the first round. Sudan advanced over Zambia by scoring more goals in the second game (not away goals, as is the practice now), Morocco over Senegal, Tunisia over rivals Algeria, Nigeria over Cameroon, and Ethiopia over Libya. Over the last decade prior, Morocco and Tunisia had faced each other in qualification at least twice; both times required a drawing of lots, and both times, Morocco won to advance to the next round. This time, both teams had 0-0 draws, and a 2-2 sudden-death draw. This time, a coin was flipped. Tunisia got to call the coin toss – and predictably lost. The Tunisian FA was convinced that the toss was rigged, and reports even claim that they sent FIFA video footage as proof, which was predictably ignored. Ultimately, Morocco survived a three-team playoff with Nigeria and Sudan to become the first African team to make it since 1934.

In the Asia/Oceania zone, North Korea wouldn’t get to repeat their run, after refusing to play Israel. Although geographically located in Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was assigned to this group, losing a 3-1 tiebreaker in neutral Mozambique against Australia. With the North Koreans’ withdrawal, Israel and Australia played each other for the spot. Israel qualified for the first and so far only time. Starting in 1974, Israel would move to UEFA for qualifying.

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(Israel qualified as the Asian representative for the only time in 1970. Photo courtesy of http://www.uefa.com.)

In CONCACAF, with Mexico already qualified, only one spot was available. Although they advanced out of the first round, the United States couldn’t get past Haiti in the next round. The other two semifinalists – neighbors El Salvador and Honduras – were about to face controversy. Because goal differential wasn’t used yet, both teams won once and lost once in their capital city (1-0 Honduras in Tegucigalpa and 3-0 El Salvador in San Salvador). Both countries had something the other wanted – Honduras had the land, while El Salvador had the people. Riots had broken out in each of the first two matches. Immigration issues were affecting both countries, and would come to a head in the final match in Mexico City for the spot in the finals. Mauricio Alonso Rodriguez broke a 2-2 tie in extra time (101′) to send El Salvador through. Later in the day, the countries dissolved all diplomatic relations, and a brief conflict broke out, known as the “Football War.” It would last only five days, July 14-18 of 1969, and be broken up by OAS (Organization of American States), but it was a dirty mixture of politics and sports. Despite a treaty being signed and other judicial measures being taken, the bad blood has never gone away; as recently as 2013, both sides threatened the other with action.

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(A five-day war between El Salvador and Honduras broke out in July 1969, during qualification for the World Cup, known as the “Football War.” Photo courtesy of http://www.football-bible.com.) 

In any event, El Salvador and Haiti faced off for the spot. Again, both sides had a win and a loss, and it came down to another tiebreaker, this time in Kingston, Jamaica. Again, it went into extra time. This time, Juan Ramon Martinez (104′) hit the game winner to put El Salvador into the World Cup for the first time. Haiti would make their only appearance four years later.

For the only time in their history, not including withdrawals, Argentina failed to qualify in CONMEBOL, finishing last in a three-team group with Bolivia and the group winner, Peru, led by their superstar player Teofilo Cubillas, helping Peru in for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1930. The Albiceleste of Argentina were left out in the cold again.

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(Teofilo Cubillas remains arguably Peru’s best player, and scored six times to lead Peru in qualifying. Photo courtesy of http://www.nasljerseys.com

Brazil easily qualified, despite both internal and external squabbles. Having suffered a military coup in 1964, many tried to escape the dictatorship, which had tried to influence manager Joao Saldanha with his team selection. Saldanha didn’t take kindly to this, especially to the insisted inclusion of striker Dario, who was a personal favorite of President Emilio Medici. While I’m paraphrasing, Saldanha said something to the effect of “I don’t get to pick his cabinet, so he doesn’t get to pick my team.” Saldanha even tried to leave Pelé off the roster; within a year, he was fired and replaced by Mario Zagallo, who put both Pelé and Dario on the team. He had a superstar team – defender Carlos Alberto, midfielders Gérson and Clodoaldo, and playmakers Tostão, Jairzinho, and Rivelino. Even goalkeeper, traditionally their most troublesome position, had a rock in Felix. They dominated the competition, winning all six of their qualifying games, scoring 23 and allowing only two. They were like the Yankees, Patriots, and Soviet hockey team all rolled into one. Uruguay also qualified out of South America.

Romania won the first UEFA group, earning a 1-1 draw with Greece to qualify. In a playoff in Marseille, Czechoslovakia beat Hungary 4-1; Italy easily qualified, particularly after Iceland withdrew; Soviet Union also won, as did Sweden, West Germany, and Bulgaria, beating Netherlands and Poland in a shocking upset. A 3-1 victory over Luxembourg got Bulgaria in. And for the first time in sixteen years, Belgium’s Red Devils made it back into the Cup, edging out Yugoslavia and Spain to qualify. They didn’t have any real chances to win, but they were greatly improved, led by Paul Van Himst, Raoul Lambert, and their star player, Wilfried Van Moer of Standard Liège.

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(Wilfried Van Moer would lead the Red Devils back into the World Cup, Belgium’s first appearance in 16 years. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Two new innovations came on the field itself – each team was allowed two substitutions, and after the controversies in Santiago and London, yellow and red cards would be introduced to attempt to break the language barrier. Teams received two points for a win and one point for a draw. Juanito was the official mascot, and from 1966 on, every World Cup has had one since. Five cities would do hosting duties – Puebla, Toluca, León, Guadalajara, and the world famous Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Much to the consternation of players, games would start at around noon to accompany primetime European audiences.

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(Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

The competition
Group 1
This group featured hosts Mexico, Soviet Union, Belgium, and El Salvador. In the Mexico-USSR game, Evgeny Lochev set a record by being the first player to be booked in the World Cup. Later in the game, Anatoliy Puzach was the first sub (46′) right after halftime. Unfortunately, neither team had a goal in them, drawing 0-0. Would the hosts recover from a poor start?

Belgium and El Salvador played in their opening match. For once, it looked like the Red Devils had an easy match. And they did, earning their first ever World Cup win, 3-0. Following an El Salvador handball, Van Moer quickly played the free kick to Wilfried Puis, who passed it back. Van Moer fired from 35 yards (12′). GOAL!! Van Moer’s brilliant shot got the Belgians off running. Later in the game, Van Moer got his second (54′) on a close range shot. 76 minutes in, Raoul Lambert added a penalty to make it 3-0. It was a landmark day for the Belgians.

(Belgium earns their first World Cup win against El Salvador in Estadio Azteca. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Wilfried Van Moer scores one of his two goals against El Salvador, leading Belgium to a 3-0 win. Photo courtesy of FourFourTwo.) 

The elation didn’t last in the koningkrijk. In the following match, they fell to the Soviets 4-1, with Lambert’s goal (86′) preventing a shutout. The Mexico-El Salvador game was scoreless right before halftime, when a foul was called in the box by Egypt’s Ali Kandil. Kandil waved the players over – except nobody know which team was given the free kick. Confusion reigned for a few seconds. It was basically first come, first serve. Mexico played the ball from the spot, and the ball landed to Javier Valdivia. He fired across the goal and scored, literally seconds before halftime. El Salvador refused to kickoff in protest. Kandil blew the whistle for halftime, with El Salvador fuming. During the halftime break, Mexico’s substitute Horacio Salgado began warming up on the sidelines. Accidentally or otherwise, Salgado infuriated the El Salvadorians even more by doing balletic steps, skipping and sashaying on the pitch.

It would get better. Literally seconds after halftime, Valdivia broke the defense again, and scored again, his second goal in less than two minutes. For the rest of the game, El Salvador could see that Kandil was in over his head. They kicked the Mexicans out of the game, and Kandil even awarded them a free kick after a mild challenge by Mexico. The rest of the match was a joke, and Mexico won 4-0 to seize momentum. El Salvador was out before their final game.

(Highlights of the Mexico-El Salvador match. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The hosts narrowly edged Belgium 1-0 on a penalty goal from captain Gustavo Peña. Belgium was narrowly eliminated. The Soviets beat El Salvador 2-0, who were the worst team in the tournament with no goals scored and nine allowed. The Soviets won the group on a drawing of lots, after having the same goal differential (+5) with Mexico.

Group 2 
Although Israel was excited to be there, they lost 2-0 to Uruguay in their first match, with goals from Ildo Maneiro (23′) and Juan Mujica (50′). Italy beat Sweden 1-0 on an early goal through Angelo Domenghini. The two favorites drew 0-0 in the next game, while Israel got their only goal in their following game against Sweden. After Tom Turesson gave Sweden the lead in the 53rd minute, captain Mordechai Spiegler equalized only three minutes later. The scoreline held, and Israel had their first point.

Israel had one more surprise. They held Italy to a scoreless draw, earning a second point, but it still was only good enough for last place. The biggest story in the game was Italy’s super sub, a temperamental attacking midfielder named Gianni Rivera. Many felt that he could lead Italy to the whole thing, but because of his reluctance to play any defense in a country that prided itself on it, and thanks to a feud with his boss at AC Milan, Silvio Berlusconi, Rivera didn’t even play at all until the third group game. Additionally, manager Ferruccio Valcareggi believed that Rivera and fellow midfielder Alessandro Mazzola (of rival Inter Milan) were too similar in style and couldn’t play at the same time. Sweden beat Uruguay 1-0 but it wouldn’t be enough. Italy took the group and Uruguay finished second to advance to the quarterfinals.

Group 3
Although England were the defending champions, the media’s jingoism was a major turnoff to the hometown fans. As a result, the English team was subject to honking car horns in the middle of the night, among other things. Additionally, captain Bobby Moore had been accused of stealing a bracelet several weeks prior in Bogota, Colombia. He was arrested and detained for several days. Although he was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, England came in with a chip on their shoulder.

Nevertheless, England took their first game Romania 1-0. It took a Geoff Hurst goal in the 65th minute to break through. Brazil easily took their first match over Czechoslovakia 4-1, including a goal from Pelé, playing in his final Cup. Additionally, Jairzinho had two and Rivelino had one. The next match would feature Brazil versus England and be labelled the “Clash of Champions.” In many years, it would have been the final.

During that match, England had numerous chances, but left them wide. Later in the game, Pelé took a cross into the box from Jairzinho. He headed it down. It looked like a sure goal….but then England keeper Gordon Banks made what many believe is the greatest save in the World Cup. He played the bounce and pushed it over the bar for a Brazil corner, as Pelé was already celebrating. This is how great he was – we even celebrate the ones he didn’t score. Brazil eventually won when Jairzinho scored (59′) in the second half. In the other game, Romania beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 when Floria Dumitrache (75′) hit the winner.

(Gordon Banks makes the save. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Brazil survived a tough test from Romania 3-2 to win the group, with Pelé scoring twice and Jairzinho once. Czechoslovakia lost to England to finish without a point, as an Allan Clarke penalty (50′) put the Three Lions into the quarterfinals.

Group 4
Shockingly, Bulgaria took a 2-0 lead only four minutes after halftime. But only a minute later, Alberto Gallardo (50′) started a Peruvian comeback. Five minutes later, captain Hector Chumpitaz scored the equalizer. Then, 73 minutes in, Cubillas scored the winner. The Bulgarians had blown it.

(Highlights of the Peru-Bulgaria game. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Perhaps even more shockingly, Morocco’s willingness to attack paid off remarkably well. Just past the twenty minute mark, Houmane Jarir gave them a shock 0-1 lead over West Germany. That lead held up through halftime. For a while, it looked like Morocco might pull off the upset. However, captain Uwe Seeler hit the equalizer, and then Gerd Müller
hit the winner (80′) en route to leading the Cup in scoring that year.

Despite Morocco’s best efforts, a brace from Cubillas helped Peru push themselves into the quarterfinals. Robert Challe also added one, and Peru won 3-0. Once again, West Germany allowed the first goal, but rallied to bet Bulgaria 5-2. Müller had a hat trick, including one via penalty.

In arguably the best game of the round, West Germany used another Müller hat trick – the last of the Cup – to win 3-1 over Peru. Cubillas scored in his third consecutive game, and Peru had earned enough points to advance to the quarterfinals. Both Morocco and Bulgaria earned one point with a 1-1 draw. For the Moroccans, it was their first point in World Cup competition. Still, it wouldn’t be enough, as the Atlas Lions wouldn’t make it back until 1986.

Quarterfinals 
Having taken second in the group on lots, Mexico tried to have FIFA re-arrange their venue to Azteca. FIFA denied their request. Now being forced to play in Toluca, they would have to face the tough-minded Italians. Initially, Mexico actually took the lead (13′) when Jose Luis Gonzalez beat the Italian keeper. But an own goal by his teammate Javier Guzman (25′) allowed Italy to equalize. While the score held up at halftime, Luigi Riva scored a brace at halftime, and Gianni Rivera would score one of his own. The final score was 4-1 Italy, and the hosts were out. Still, it was their first appearance in the knockout stages.

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(Gianni Rivera scored for Italy to lead them to the semifinals. Photo courtesy of http://www.xtratime.org

Playing at Estadio Azteca instead, Uruguay used an extra time goal from Victor Esparrago (117′) to advance to their first semifinals until 1954. While Peru played fairly well, including another Cubillas goal, Brazil proved too strong and won 4-2, including a brace by Tostão. Brazil was back in the semifinals.

The final quarterfinal was a re-match between West Germany and England. Goalkeeper Gordon Banks would be out for England after coming down with a mysterious case of food poisoning, being replaced by Peter “The Cat” Bonetti of Chelsea. Bonetti was a good keeper, but Banks’ success had prevented him from getting more caps. He finished with only seven in his career – but five of them were clean sheets. But this would be the one he would be remembered for. Like Barbosa for Brazil twenty years earlier, it would be for the wrong reasons.

Both teams had chances early, but it was England that would strike first, with Allan Mullery (32′) putting the ball past Sepp Maier. Neither team would score again before halftime. England’s fortunes looked to be looking up even more when Martin Peters made it 2-0 (50′). But then the Germans began to fight back, and Bonetti would become the goat.

West Germany fought back. In the 69th minute, Müller made a run. Perhaps Bonetti was nervous of his strike prowess, so he focused on him. Big mistake – it was Franz Beckenbauer who fired the shot at Bonetti. He got a hand on it…and then it rolled past him and into the net! Suddenly, it was only 2-1. According to legend, León’s pitch had not seen rain in months and was as hard as a rock. One minute after the goal, Alf Ramsey made a mistake of his own. The England manager decided to take out Bobby Charlton. According to Beckenbauer, he was delighted, claiming that was the moment he knew the Germans would rally. To be fair, Charlton was 32 years old, the oldest player on the England team. But still, he was the man that had made England go.

76 minutes in, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger played the ball into the box. Uwe Seeler went up for it. Known for his ability to head the ball backward, he did just that, which floated over Bonetti’s head for the equalizer. Neither team scored again in regulation and the match went into extra time. And once again, it would be Gerd Müller to hit the winner. A header was played down, and only Bonetti was left to mark him. It didn’t matter. Müller one-touched it into the goal for a 3-2 West Germany lead (108′). The lead held, and West Germany had rallied to win. It was their first competitive win over England since before World War II. Nobody knew it at the time, but the momentum had swung back the other way, perhaps permanently. Bonetti was seen as the scapegoat for England losing, and never played for The Three Lions again.

(Highlights of the West Germany-England quarterfinal. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Semifinals 
It would be a South America vs. Europe final, as Italy met West Germany and Uruguay hosted Brazil. In the first match, Uruguay took a shocking lead (19′) through Luis Cubilla. But Brazil would not be denied, getting an equalizer from the usually unheralded Clodoaldo one minute before halftime. Brazil would score twice more in the second half to make it 3-1, and would compete for the Jules Rimet trophy again. Another famous moment occurred when Pelé received a through ball from Tostão. He juked the keeper, known in the lingo as a “dummy,” and had a wide open net…but he missed. Still, Pelé was so revered that it almost made it more legendary that he didn’t score.

(Pelé’s famous “dummy” and miss of the Uruguayan keeper. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

The other match was a classic. In fact, many call it the “Game of the Century.” Italy struck first when Roberto Boninsegna put the Azzurri on top after only eight minutes. Plus, as seen below, he had a famous goal celebration.

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(Roberto Boninsegna scores against West Germany. Photo courtesy of http://www.footballfever.blogspot.com

For most the match, Italy’s defensive style of play, catenaccio, kept them in the lead. But West Germany kept pressing. Finally, right before extra time started, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger fired a shot that beat Italian keeper Enrico Albertosi. Schnellinger wasn’t known as much of a goalscorer – he was a left back who played his club football in Italy, amazingly enough (for AC Milan). He wasn’t a frequent scorer for them, and this was his one and only goal for Die Mannschaft in 47 caps. Even German announcer Ernst Huberty was shocked: “Ausgerechnet Schnellinger!” (“Schnellinger, of all people!!”) Nevertheless, the match was even and was headed to extra time.

In the first period, West Germany took the lead, as Gerd Müller struck again (94′). But Italy had another strike in them, as defender Tarcisio Burgnich (what a great name!) hit the equalizer four minutes later. As the second extra time period started, Luigi Riva struck for Italy to make it 3-2. Would Italy hold on? Six minutes later, Müller would make it 3-3 by getting his second goal of the match. Many blamed Gianni Rivera’s defense – or lack thereof – for allowing Müller to score. But Rivera had his own moment, finally cracking through less than a minute later off of a gorgeous cross by Boninsegna. In fact, many TV stations were still replaying the equalizer when Rivera scored. The scoreline finally held up, and Italy survived 4-3.

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(Gianni Rivera scores the winner for Italy. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph.) 

(Highlights of the Italy-West Germany match. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Third place match
West Germany wasn’t demoralized after such a great match, holding on to win by a 1-0 scoreline through midfielder Wolfgang Overath (26′). Uruguay had good chances of their own, but couldn’t get through. Nevertheless, it was their best finish in 16 years. They would have to wait 40 years to get back to the quarterfinals.

Final 
Brazil and Italy would battle to become the first team to win the Cup three times. It was also the first time that two teams that had previously won had faced off in the final. Brazil’s attacking style would go head-to-head with the frustrating yet successful defensive style of play. Which strategy would win the day?

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(The two teams line up before the final. Photo courtesy of Paste Magazine.) 

Controversially, Gianni Rivera was left out of the starting lineup for the Azzurri. Perhaps it was a punishment for his brash behavior, or perhaps they felt he was a defensive liability, but Italy unnecessarily put itself at a disadvantage from the start. Brazil would play its attacking style to its advantage early. Pelé (18′) made the most of his last final by putting Brazil up 1-0. But Italy tied it (37′) after a rare mistake from Brazil’s defense, allowing Roberto Boninsegna to equalize. It went into halftime with a 1-1 scoreline.

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(Pelé celebrates his goal for Brazil in the final. Photo courtesy of Young Journalist Academy.)

Still, Brazil was clearly the better team that day. They took the lead for good in the 66th minute, when Gérson made it 2-1. Only five minutes later, he played in a cross to Pelé, who headed the ball down to Jairzinho, running onto the ball, and hitting a beautiful strike for the third goal.

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(Jairzinho scored the third goal for Brazil. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.) 

But it would be the final Brazilian goal that would be considered the stuff of legend. Eight of the ten outfield players touched the ball, and the movement was balletic and graceful. It was started by Tostão, who stole the ball  from Italy. It went to defender Brito, then to Clodoaldo,  Pelé, and Gérson. Clodoaldo got the ball back again and in his own half dribbled around four Italian players. He got the ball to Rivelino, and then Rivelino passed the ball beautifully to Jairzinho. He crossed the ball into the box to Pelé, who heard from Tostão (who had his back to the goal) that defender Carlos Alberto was racing along the right flank. Pelé held for just a second, played the ball into Carlos Alberto, who ran right onto it, and BAM!! GOAL! Many consider it the best goal ever scored in the World Cup – and for Carlos Alberto, it was a captain’s goal that was struck beautifully. The goal totally shattered the Italians’ morale with only four minutes to play. Neither team struck again, and Brazil won the match 4-1. The Jules Rimet trophy was theirs to keep permanently.

(Carlos Alberto scores the fourth goal for Brazil, one of the best in World Cup history. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(The Brazilian team at the 1970 World Cup, one of the best teams ever assembled. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Fun Facts 
Pelé is the only player to play on three World Cup winning teams. The 1970 World Cup was his last, and he went out with a bang.

Another Brazilian, Jairzinho, is the last player to date to score in every match, scoring seven in exactly seven games.

Franz Beckenbauer played the semifinal for West Germany with his arm in a sling after hurting his shoulder during the match. With no substitutes left, Beckenbauer stayed in the game.

Ladislao Mazurkiewicz was named best goalkeeper of the tournament. His team? Uruguay, believe it or not. He was born on the coastal town of Piriápolis (population 8,800) to a Polish father and a Spanish mother. Despite his heritage, Mazurkiewicz never visited Poland or learned the Polish language.

The Telstar, manufactured by Adidas, became the first officially licensed ball used at the World Cup.

Brazilian coach Mario Zagallo became the first person to win the World Cup as a player and a coach.

Belgium earned their first win in the World Cup, and Morocco and Israel earned their first points. Unfortunately for Israel, they’ve never made it back.

In 1983, the Jules Rimet was stolen from a glass case in Rio de Janeiro by an unknown thief. The trophy was never recovered, and most likely melted down for gold.

Silvio Berlusconi, president of AC Milan at the time, later became President of Italy running the Forza Italia party (it would be like Barack Obama’s party being called Let’s Go White Sox).

Final Thoughts 
Brazil’s attacking style was the end of an era. It would be the birth of a defensive style from here on out. Still, a new style of play four years later was about to be born from a Dutch team. It would be known as “Total Football.”

References and Sources
FIFA
ESPN FC.
Wikipedia
Getty Images.
YouTube
http://www.uefa.com
http://www.football-bible.com
http://www.footballfever.blogspot.com
http://www.xtratime.org
http://www.nasljerseys.com
FourFourTwo.
Paste Magazine. 
Young Journalists Academy
Daily Mail. 

The Telegraph. 
50 Greatest World Cup Moments (BBC documentary)
World Cup Heaven and Hell: Dirty Rotten Scandals (ITV documentary)
England’s Worst Ever Football Team (ITV documentary)
Mysteries of the Jules Rimet Trophy (ESPN 30 for 30 documentary)
20 Goals That Shook the World (BBC documentary)
The Ultimate Book of Sports Lists (Andrew Postman, Larry Stone)
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)

Various language practice.

Hi everybody. Bonsoir, tout le monde. Over the last year, I’ve been practicing, learning, and practicing again on various language. Perhaps it’s because I come from a multicultural background, being half-Belgian and half-American (most of you who read my posts regularly already know this). So, here are some practice examples of all the languages I’ve been learning. For the sake of practice, I’m going to try to do at least three sentences in each language. If I make any mistakes, apologies in advance. I welcome your corrections. It’s the only way I’ll get better. At the same time, I think I do deserve some credit for at least trying to learn other languages. These will be in no particular order.

1. French
Je m’appelle Eric. Je suis moitié belge, moitié américain. Je suis né à Bloomington, Indiana. Plus tard cette année, le seize juin, je vais célébrer mon anniversaire, et la semaine après, mon frère se mariera. Quand j’avais environ dix-huit ans, je suis allé en France avec mon école; la plupart du temps, nous sommes restés en Alsace-Lorraine, y compris un jour à Strasbourg, et finalement, deux jours à Paris. Bientôt, j’y voudrais retourner. C’est tout pour l’instant. Bonsoir!

2. Dutch 
Dag allemaal. Mijn naam is Eric Van Gucht. Ik ben in de Verenidge Staten geboren; dus sprak ik geen Nederlands thuis. Maar nu is een goed moment om meer te leren. Ik heb meer praktijk nodig. Hoe gaat het met jou? Morgen, zal ik naar werk gaan, dan weer thuis. Ook…ik hou niet van groene eieren en ham. 🙂

3. Spanish 
Hola. Me llamo Eric. Cerca de mi casa, hay una lavandería, una librería, una papelería, varios restaurantes, y una iglesia. Me gusta las Medias Rojas de Boston (Boston Red Sox). ¿Cómo estás hoy? Nunca he estado en España, pero un día quizás. Hablo pokito español, pero estoy tratando de aprender más. Tengo treinta años…casi. Camino al trabajo todos las días.

4. Norwegian
Hei! Jeg heter Eric. Jeg spiser ikke kjøtt. Jeg har hørt at nordlyset er viktig berømt i Norge. Jeg har en yngre bror, en eldre stebror, og en eldre søster. Jeg er en mann, ikke en kvinne. Jeg har på meg ofte en caps. Det er en caps av den belgiske fotballag (KBVB). Det er svart, gul, og rød. Det er alt for nå. Ha det.

5. German 
Guten Tag. Ich heiße Eric. Wie heißt du? Ich habe kein Auto. Ich gehe stattdessen zur Arbeit. Mein Bruder wird im Juni heiraten, und ich werde ein Groomsman sein. Ich möchte mehr schreiben, aber ich weiß nicht, was soll ich schreiben. Deswegen, ich werde jetzt aufhören. Es tut mir Leid. Ich werde versuchen, das nächste Mal zu schreiben.

6. Korean 
안녕하세요. 내 이름은 에릭이야. 당신의 이름은 무엇입니까? 나는 반별기에 반 미국인입니다. 나는 바나나가 좋다. 나는 더 많은 한국어를 배우고 싶습니다. 감사합니다. 안녕히가세요.

So, that’s what I’ve been working on so far. Like I said, please read this and help me make any necessary corrections. It’s a start, and hopefully it’s a good one.

The frustration with person-first language

Autism is a very paradoxical condition. One of the ways I use to describe it is this: imagine everything that is considered “normal” in life (i.e. driving a car, getting married, buying a house, anything that would allow somebody to “keep up with the Joneses,” if you will). Then do the opposite – that is, not driving, remaining single by choice, probably never having kids, and most important, choosing to be alone. That’s not autism in a nutshell, but it’s the easiest answer I can give. But that’s the problem.

As with all of these things, being autistic is no easy answer. Many people would read this and criticize me – some might even say eviscerate me – for not using “person-first language.” Arguments on both sides keep running the gamut among the community – are we “autistic” or “people with autism?”

One of the most dangerous things I can do is pretend I speak for everybody on the spectrum. I’ll just use my experiences, and let you make your own call. I prefer to use the term autistic. I understand where a lot of the other side comes from. I really do. I’m all for acceptance. But it’s kind of a tragic irony – for me, that doesn’t necessarily help me. That’s one part of the problem – there’s no room for both of them. Either I am autistic or I am a person with autism. If we really dig a little deeper, don’t they amount to the same thing? Why can’t I be both autistic and a person with autism? If you mix two colors together, for example, red and blue, you get purple. But you get the same result if you reverse the process. Does order really matter here?

Also, from my experience, autistic is easier to say. It’s three syllables long and is a strong, adjectival word. In fact, just look at the very construction of the phrasing of person with autism. From a syntax perspective, it doesn’t really sound all that good, does it? And it has twice as many syllables. As another example, let’s say I lose all my hair one day. Being called a “person with hair loss” or “person with baldness” seems a little like overkill. I’d be bald. Four letters, one syllable. It just rolls off the tongue better. And trust me, when you’re like me, you’re told to get to the point a lot. (Yes, I ramble, including now – probably. No, I’m not proud of it.) I think it’s fair to ask the same thing from the other way around.

Additionally, you could argue it doesn’t eliminate the stigma. It increases the stigma. For me, and I’m sure for many other autistics (particularly the higher-functioning ones that can pass for “normal”), the last thing we want to have is to have any unnecessary attention called to our condition. We’re being singled out, albeit for praise rather than for criticism. But is that really a better scenario? I wonder how many people who advocate for “person-first” language would feel if the situation were reversed.

With her permission, I’d like to post a link to an article by writer Michelle Sutton. In the wake of Sesame Street adding an autistic character named Julia is seen by many as a step in the right direction. Sutton doesn’t think so. (In one of my very brief soapbox moments, the fact that Sesame Street is even around to take this risk is a good thing, in my opinion. But I won’t go into that – others have already said it better than I could ever hope to.) Her article can be found below:

I want to be wrong about Julia

One thing that Sutton mentions, which is telling, is how Julia is in their world, but they are not in hers. The balance of power is never going to be equal. This has been a frustration of mine all my life – I can play by the “rules” of the normal world pretty well. Why can’t they play by the “rules” of the autistic world every once in a while?

Without going into too much detail about it, this is why I’m reluctant to seek professional help. The word professional is the tip-off for me. I may do it one day, but I’ll know that the balance of power is not equal, and in that environment, it may never be.

This is what many of the “advocates” miss about the whole thing. The point is this:

Whatever term you want to use, we’re still going to have the condition one way or the other. As a result, why does it *matter* so much?

One of the best ways to know which term to use is to ask us. We’ll tell you if we want to, and we’ll tell you if we’re uncomfortable. Maybe some of us prefer a different term altogether.

So, whatever I am, I deal with it as best I can. Am I supposed to do anything else?

Sleep sweet, to rise anew

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae

En route to the MCPL with my dad tonight, I mentioned how it was the one-year anniversary of the attacks at Zaventem Airport and the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels. For a country that has faced its own issues with linguistic tensions, been attacked in two world wars, and was forced to deal with the atrocities committed by Leopold II and in Rwanda, Belgium has seemed to rebound pretty well. But in many ways, Brussels lost a major part of itself. It’s still the headquarters of NATO and the EU as many argue about the relevance of both organizations. And if you ever get to see the Grote Markt/Grand Place, it’s well worth the trip. But now it’s like they’re having a hard time getting the people to come back.

35 people, including three perpetrators, lost their lives. 14 of them were Belgian, four American. My dad said it felt like so long ago. He’s not necessarily wrong. If 2016 was the toughest year in recent memory for many people, this was one reason why. As Tony Kushner wrote, “Oh, dear. The world has gotten so terribly, terribly old.”

And yet, one day following the attacks, a group gathered in the Brussels financial district, the Rue de la Bourse. And they sang a song of hope as many laid wreaths, flowers, pictures; still others took photos or videos of them singing. It was “This Little Light of Mine.”

One message read: “…Donner de l’espoir à Bruxelles et encourager nos concitoyens…” “To give hope to Brussels and to encourage our fellow citizens.”

You can find the video here:

These same people went on to sing the anthem and several other songs along the Rue de la Bourse. As Belgium began to pick itself back up, many of the hard feelings were put aside. Brussels became the glue again.

In the aftermath of World War I, the city of Ypres erected the Menin Gate Memorial to honor those who died. I hope to go there one day. Every night at 8 p.m., a bugle corps plays “The Last Post.” It’s said to be the signature event of the gate and its surrounding areas. In some ways, it’s become the monument of honor for the Belgians.

Image result for menin gate

The poem at the top of the post was written by a Canadian named John McCrae around the beginning of the First World War. This was before the grittiness of war set in for many, when the romanticism of it, however inconceivable it seems now, wasn’t necessarily that way back then. In response, American Moina Michael wrote a response poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith.” She was also the one who came up with the idea that a poppy could be used as a remembrance flower. Her text is a nice contrast with the top:

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

– Moina Michael

As Belgium does its best to pick itself up one year later, I ask my fellow Belgians (or Belgian-Americans or whomever) to remember the motto:

L’union fait la force. 
Eendracht maakt macht. 
Unity makes strength. 

Vernal equinox

Happy first day of spring, everybody! It’s a little rainy today, but these things happen. Soon, the leaves should be coming back, and summer is right around the corner. The seasons keep changing, as they must. To celebrate the season, here are a few pictures I took over the last few months.

IMG_5173IMG_5183IMG_5182IMG_5175

The top and bottom one are from Bryan Park in January. The middle two are from right outside my apartment or right inside it. It’s nice to finally have a camera to take photos with, and be able to download them as well.

Chasing campuses, Part 1

Not that anybody cares, which is fine, but here is a list of my own I created. I call it “Chasing Campuses.” Perhaps because I’m a child of academia, I was always fascinated with college towns, even if I wasn’t that great in college. Still, my two degrees are my most treasured possessions.

So, here’s a list of all the campuses I’ve visited, to the best of my knowledge. For Part 1, it’ll be a list that focuses in the U.S. It can be any kind of event – sports, a campus visit, or a visit to a building. For the purpose of organization, I’ll be arranging them chronologically by state.

My list (as of March 17, 2017).

Indiana 
1. Indiana University 
Division I 
Status: Alumni (B.A. 2011) 
Nickname: Hoosiers 
Conference: Big Ten 
Location: Bloomington, Indiana 
Established: 1820
Type: Public 

Total Number of Visits: Numerous 
Reasons for Visiting: Numerous 

This one’s pretty obvious. I grew up in Bloomington, and with my dad being a professor, it was pretty obvious that I was going to go here. I finished with a B.A. in theatre and French in 2011. I’ve been to campus for numerous reasons – sports, classes, passing through, or even just to admire the scenery. And many believe that it is one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, and known as a “Public Ivy” – i.e. a public school price for a better education. What else can I say? I’m bound to it for life, for better or for worse.

2. Purdue University 
Division I 
Status: Visitor
Nickname: Boilermakers 
Conference: Big Ten 
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana 
Established: 1869
Type: Public

Total Number of Visits: 2 
Reasons for Visiting: Choir Concerts 

Both times I’ve been to Purdue’s campus, I was in high school. My choir went up to Purdue to sing in their opening concert. So, although my heart was and is with IU, I also know Purdue’s fight song (they made us learn it). It feels weird to sing as a Bloomington native, let me tell you. The campus is nice, but I prefer IU’s, and I still can’t get over the pig statue in front of the campus. But I see why Indiana and Purdue have a rivalry – both schools are said to be the flagship campuses in the state of Indiana.

3. University of Indianapolis 
Division II 
Status: Visitor 
Nickname: Greyhounds 
Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference 
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana 
Established: 1902 
Type: Private 
Total Number of Visits: 1 
Reasons for Visiting: Choir Performance 

I was not the one performing in this concert, but as part of an extra credit opportunity, I went with several other BHSN choir members to hear a concert in January of 2005. It was a five-person a cappella group (three men, two women), many of whom scored their own adaptations. It was a nice time watching the show. Other than that, though, I haven’t been back to U of I.

4. University of Evansville
Division I 
Status: Visitor/Potential Applicant
Nickname: Purple Aces 
Conference: Missouri Valley
Location: Evansville, Indiana

Established: 1854 
Type: Private 
Number of Visits: 2 
Reasons for Visiting: College Visit; wedding ceremony 

One of my cousins got married in one of the chapels on the campus. But before that, the only official college visit I ever went was to UE. Even though I went to IU, I never went on an officially sanctioned visit during high school. As nice as it was, the tuition was high even for in-state, and we probably knew it wouldn’t be the school I ended up going to. Still, I have a cousin who graduated from UE and somebody else from my high school was on a visit of her own that same day. So that’s kind of cool.

5. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana
Status: Potential Applicant 
Nickname: N/A 
Conference: N/A 
Established: 1963
Location: Various
Type: Community college 
Total Number of Visits: 2
Reasons for Visiting: Information on classes, workshops 

Believe it or not, I’ve only been to Ivy Tech twice in my life, despite growing up in a chapter nearby. I did get some information about classes, but decided not to pursue any (this was after I got my B.A.) and also did a job skills workshop there once as well.

6. Anderson University 
Division III
Status: Visitor 
Nickname: Ravens 
Conference: Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference 
Location: Anderson, Indiana 
Established: 1917 
Type: Private 
Total Number of Visits: 1
Reasons for Visit: Sports 

My dad, my cousin Maarten and I went to Anderson once for Indianapolis Colts training camp. It was pretty fun, although I’ve never seen an official NFL game. Other than that, nothing to write about.

7. IUPUI 
Division I
Status: Visitor 
Nickname: Jaguars 
Conference: Summit League
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana 
Established: 1969 
Type: Public 
Total Number of Visits: 1 
Reason for Visits: Tourism 

I have walked through part of the IUPUI campus (incidentally, two years ago today, on St. Patrick’s Day), and also saw their student union and gift shop. A combination of Indiana and Purdue, IUPUI should have more recognition.

Total: 7

Kentucky 
1. University of Louisville 
Division I 
Status: Visitor 
Nickname: Cardinals 
Conference: ACC 
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Established: 1798 
Type: Public 
Total Number of Visits: 1 
Reasons for Visit: Wedding/Tourism 

One of my cousins got married in Louisville. The day after, we went to the U of L art museum, which was the only part of the campus we saw, but I’m still counting it. It was a nice museum, too. I need to see more of it if/when I go back.

Total: 1

Ohio 
1. Ohio State University 
Division I
Status: Visitor 
Nickname: Buckeyes 
Conference: Big Ten 
Location: Columbus, Ohio 
Established: 1870 
Type: Public 
Total Number of Visits: 1 
Reasons for Visit: Tourism 

My brother lives in Columbus, and the first time we dropped him off, we also stopped by the OSU campus. It was really nice, with a statue and a nice spate of buildings. We only saw one part of it. though. It’s a pretty big campus. Like IU, it is also a Public Ivy.

Total: 1

Texas 
1. University of Texas 
Division I 
Status: Visitor 
Nickname: Longhorns 
Conference: Big 12 
Location: Austin, Texas 
Established: 1883 
Type: Public 
Total Number of Visits: 1 
Reasons for Visits: Weddings

Also a Public Ivy, there’s a really nice side to UT. Austin’s motto is “Keep Austin weird,” and UT is one of the better parts of it. While most of it was seen from a trolley, I still got to step onto it briefly, so I’m counting it.

Total: 1

Inconclusive/Unconfirmed/Just Passing Through (In chronological order) 
1. Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee 
2. University of Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin 
3. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee
4. UNC-Asheville – Asheville, North Carolina 
5. University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Virginia 
6. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan 
7. Belmont University – Nashville, Tennessee 
8. University of South Florida – Tampa, Florida 

Confirmed Totals: 10
Unconfirmed Totals: 8

Causation theory

Part I: My argument against the MMR hypothesis
Many people are still on the fence about what causes autism. For the most part, they seem to have counted out vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccine. Many still remain convinced, however, but here’s the thing: Andrew Wakefield, the British man who first proposed the theory, wasn’t operating from a neutral standpoint. Rumors say that he had paid kids to give him the information, and many of them were not chosen at random; in essence, this calls into question whether or not Wakefield obtained the information ethically. Reports speculate about financial conflicts of interest – much of the money he obtained was from parents who were already against vaccines for other conditions unrelated to autism (Brian Deer wrote an article in 2004 about this). Additionally, he had proposed another theory about a link between the measles vaccine and Crohn’s disease. What they didn’t tell you is that he had filed a patent for a vaccine of his own. This was three years before his MMR-autism research was conducted.

Second, even if he had obtained it fairly, much of the research he gathered was only speculative and couldn’t be proven or disproven via the scientific method. In other words, how can we know if it’s true if you don’t have a chance to test it? Ergo, how much he could use remains a mystery to this day. If you can’t recreate it, it’s pretty much worthless, isn’t it?

Third, Wakefield himself was facing misconduct violations during and after the study. He obtained much of the research via colonoscopies and lumbar punctures (aka “spinal taps”), which he was not authorized my any official medical authority to do. Now read that last sentence again. And again. Wakefield lost his license in the U.K. and was never given a legal license in the U.S. Additionally, no further studies back him up, and research supposedly exists that disproves his argument, and he chose to ignore it because it would have made him look bad. Who wouldn’t, right?

Fourth, his sample size himself is too small. His research was done on only twelve children. While eight of them showed signs, that’s only eight kids! Eight kids out of millions, perhaps billions! And yet we’re supposed to believe that this is applying to the millions of people affected by it worldwide? Additionally, we never figured out the basics: were they boys or girls? (Males tend to have it 70% more often.) What was the age range of the children? What was the economic status? Some of them may not have had access to regular medical facilities. None of these questions have really been able to be admitted because of the confidentiality clause. Related to point two, it can’t be argued as true because there was no control group, and thus nothing to compare it to.

Fifth, and most importantly, if this argument is proven true eventually, people are only focused on the stigma of having it. Not to be blunt, but maybe the parents are bad parents. I hope not, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. It makes more sense than anything else proposed by this theory.

So, to recap, we have a researcher who probably falsified his research, has no viable way to test much of that research, was being paid by partisan sources, may not have collected enough information worth of testing anyway, and regardless of any scientific findings, is basically treating the autistic community as second-class citizens. Just think about all that.

Part II: My hypothesis 
I’m no researcher, but I am the expert. After all, I live with it every day of my life. Here’s the argument that I believe, as do many others: it comes from a mutation in the lining of the intestinal tract. This basically states that genetic mutations in the intestines send GABA receptors (a neurotransmitter) and other bacteria to an axis in the brain, which then disrupt the receptors in the synapses of the brain. If there is one thing I do agree with about Wakefield’s theory, it’s the colonoscopy part. A 2015 study in Sweden seems to suggest that autistics are several times more likely to suffer from colon cancer or other gastrointestinal issues. It’s reported that 70% of autistics will suffer through them, Crohn’s being among them. So, we just have strange bacteria in our DNA. This is called the “gut-brain connection.” In the end, it may not be true, but it makes more sense that anything else I’ve heard. If this theory is proven true, then yes, my DNA is at fault.

Two questions still remain about this, however:
1. How much do environmental factors play into it? Depending on whether you live in the city or country, the rates may vary. I don’t remember any research being done on this, and if so, it’s inconclusive. It’s possible that environmental factors like pollution may have adverse effects on the mother.

2. Why do the rates favor men more than women? This is something I’m really curious about. Is there something on the Y chromosome that causes the mutation in the gut? This question has never really been answered, largely because nobody’s been able or willing to test it.

So, what causes autism? We don’t know. But whatever does cause it, give us a chance to explain ourselves and I’m sure we’ll be fine. There’s another post I’m planning to write about this, but I’m purposely waiting until after my birthday in June to write it. Until then, this is my attempt to try to discredit certain arguments and promote another one.

The “club”

Later in the week (Thursday to be exact), it will be exactly three months until 30. I don’t know how I feel about this fact – on the one hand, it’ll be really nice to say I made it that far (that’s a story for another day, which I will talk about when the time comes). On the other hand, it seems to be the age where you’re supposed to think about knuckling down. I wonder if this is a guy thing, but to those that are older than me, did 30 hit you the same way that I feel like it’s going to hit me?

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have kids or a wife. I’ve never really been in the ballpark for that stuff. In fact, October 17 will mark another milestone, if nothing changes – ten years since the end of my last relationship. It’s certainly not for lack of trying. I wish I knew what else to tell you. Maybe some people are just not meant to find an S.O.

In preparation for it, my family and I have started going back to the YMCA. I need it, too – it’s been so long since I’ve been there. I remember that in the men’s locker room, the upstairs was forbidden to anybody under eighteen. I remember this being the first time I was able to go upstairs. I thought about it, but I didn’t do it. I wonder if it’s like a teacher’s lounge for elementary school kids – it’s better to remain mysterious.

That upstairs room seemed like an exclusive “club.” It’s not so exclusive anymore. And now, I’m on the precipice of joining one. Once you’re in, you never leave it, even if you want to. I unfortunately have had friends that never made it that far, or even to 25. Leave it to me to get sentimental about these things.

Age, it’s said, is nothing but a number. But I don’t know if I agree with that sentiment, or at least right now. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. There’s a face behind that story. Listen to it.

UPDATES: 501/1001 travel books

As of today’s writing (March 13, 2017), here are all my places, with repeats included.

Rules
1. I must have a legitimate memory of doing something. Ergo, just stopping in the airport or driving through a place doesn’t count (unless the airport itself is the attraction – there is one of them on this list).
2. It must be listed in the book.
3. Places will be listed either chronologically by country, or by how they’re listed in the book. So, I’ll list where I first visited, and go from there.
4. If I can’t confirm it, but may have some memories, it will be listed as “Inconclusive.”
5. For the sake of quickness (relatively speaking for me, of course), I won’t go into detail as much. Partially because of repeats.

All information is accurate as of this writing, March 13, 2017.

501 Must-Visit Cities 
Image result for 501 must visit cities
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

Belgium 
1. Antwerp 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: January-August 1994, July 2004

2. Brussels
Times Visited: 3
Dates: February-March 1994, July-August 2004, July-August 2010

3. Bruges 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

4. Ghent 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

5. Mechelen 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July-August 2010

Totals: 5

France 
1. Rennes 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. Paris
Times Visited: 2
Dates: July 2004, March 2005

3. Strasbourg 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2005

Totals: 3

England 
1. Oxford 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

2. London 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Totals: 2

United States 
1. Chicago, Illinois
Times Visited: 3
Dates: June 1995, July 1999, March 2006

2. Washington, D.C. 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

3. San Antonio, Texas 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 2001

4. Austin, Texas 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: May 2004

5. New York, New York 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

6. St. Louis, Missouri 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2009

7. Columbus, Ohio
Times Visited: 3
Dates: May 2013, February-March 2015, March 2016

8. Boston, Massachusetts 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2016

Total: 8

Inconclusive
1. Cambridge, England
2. Rouen, France
3. Nantes, France
4. Cologne, Germany
5. Leiden, Netherlands
6. Atlanta, Georgia, USA
7. Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Grand Total So Far: 18

501 Must-Visit Destinations
Image result for 501 must visit cities
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

United States
1. The Smoky Mountains 
Times Visited: 3
Dates: November 1997, November 1998, March 1999

2. Washington, D.C.
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

3. The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

4. The National Air and Space Museum 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 1998

5. San Antonio
Times Visited: 1
Dates: June 2001

6. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

Total: 6

Belgium 
1. Bruges 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Total: 1

France
1. Mont-Saint-Michel 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. The Cathedral of Notre Dame 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. The Louvre 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2005

Total: 3

Germany 
1. Aachen Cathedral 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

Netherlands 
1. Keukenhof Gardens 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

England
1. Stonehenge 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

2. Salisbury Cathedral 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

3. Oxford
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

4. The Houses of Parliament 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

5. Tate Modern 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Total: 5

Multi-Country 
The Great Lakes (USA/Canada) 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2006

Total: 1

Inconclusive
1. Cologne Cathedral – Cologne, Germany

Grand Total So Far: 18

501 Must Visit-Wild Places
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(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

Unfortunately, zero here. But I’m close to a few, so maybe soon.

Grand Total So Far: 0

501 Must-Take Journeys
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(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

United States
1. Appalachian Trail 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: November 1997, November 1998

2. Shenandoah Valley 
Times Visited:1
Dates: June 1998

3. Blue Ridge Parkway 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: November 1998

4. Lower Manhattan 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

Total: 4

Netherlands
1. Keukenhof Gardens
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

Multi-Country  
1. Flanders Fields (France/Belgium)
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Total: 1

France 
1. Brittany’s Emerald Coast 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. D-Day Beaches
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. Paris 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: July 2004, March 2005

Total: 3

Grand Total So Far:

501 Must-Be-There Events
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(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

United States 
1. Independence Day
Times Visited: Numerous
Dates: Numerous

Totals: 1

Belgium 
1. Pistes de Lancement Circus Festival 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 1994

2. La Flèche Wallonne
Times Visited: 1
Dates: April 1994

3. Ommegang Pageant 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Totals: 3

Inconclusive/Not Enough Information 
1. Pukkelpop – Hasselt, Belgium

Seen on TV (but not in person) 
England – FA Cup Final, Wimbledon Championships
France – Tour de France
United States – U.S. Open (golf), U.S. Open (tennis), World Series, Stanley Cup, Indianapolis 500, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Rose Bowl Parade, New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Grand Total So Far: 4

501 Must-Visit Natural Wonders
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(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com.) 

Multi-Country 
1. Great Lakes (USA/Canada)
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2006

Total: 1

United States 
1. The Smoky Mountains 
Times Visited: 3
Dates: November 1997, November 1998, March 1999

2. Mammoth Cave National Park 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: May 2002

3. Blue Ridge Mountains 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: November 1998

Total: 3

Belgium 
1. Ardennes Peaks 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

France 
1. Meuse Valley and the Ardennes Forest 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: Spring 1994

Total: 1

Inconclusive
1. Bluegrass Country – Kentucky, USA
2. Bracken Cave Bat Roost – San Antonio, Texas, USA
3. Chesapeake Bay – Maryland, USA

Grand Total So Far: 6

1001 Walks You Must Take Before You Die 
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(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)

United States
1. Appalachian Trail
Times Visited: 2
Dates: November 1997, November 1998

2. Clingmans Dome 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: November 1997

3. Mammoth Cave Park Long Loop Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2002

4. Chicago Lakefront Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2006

5. Central Park
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2009

6. Freedom Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2016

Total: 6

Belgium
1. Waterloo Battlefield Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. Bruges Historic Center 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. Comic Strip Trail 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Total: 3

England
The Ridgeway 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: August 2010

Total: 1

France
1. Mont-Saint-Michel 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

2. D-Day Beaches
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

3. Dinan Walled Town Walk 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

4. Left Bank, Seine 
Times Visited: 2
Dates: July 2004, March 2005

5Île Saint-Louis
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

6. Alsace Wine Trails 
Times Visited: 1
Dates: March 2005

7. GR-21 Alabaster Coast Trail
Times Visited: 1
Dates: July 2004

Totals: 7

Inconclusive
1. Ramparts of Ypres, Belgium
2. Cologne Cathedral, Germany
3. Brooklyn Bridge, United States
4. Alum Cave Bluffs Trail, United States
5. Chimney Tops Trail, United States
6. Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, United States
7. White Horse Trail, Wiltshire, England
8. GR34 Customs’ Officers Trail, Brittany, France

Grand Total So Far: 17

1001 Historic Sites You Must See Before You Die 
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(Photo courtesy of amazon.com)

Belgium
1. Belfry of Bruges
2. Rubens House
3. Waterloo Battlefield

Total: 3

England 
1. Avebury Stone Circles
2. Blenheim Palace
3. Buckingham Palace
4. Eton College
5. Nelson’s Column
6. Stonehenge
7. Tower of London
8. Westminster Abbey
9. Windsor Castle

Total: 9

France
1. Arc de Triomphe
2. Cathedral of Notre-Dame (Strasbourg)
3. Cathedral of Notre-Dame (Paris)
4. Eiffel Tower
5. Normandy Beaches
6. Pont Neuf

Total: 6

Germany 
1. Aachen Cathedral

Total: 1

United States 
1. Alamo Mission
2. Capitol Building
3. Ellis Island
4. Empire State Building
5. Gateway Arch
6. Lincoln Memorial
7. Mount Vernon
8. Statue of Liberty
9. Washington Monument
10. White House
11. Wrigley Field

Total: 11

Inconclusive 
1. World War I Battlefields – Ypres, Belgium
2. Ducal Palace of Brittany – Brittany, France
3. La Conciergerie – Paris, France
4. Palace of Versailles – Paris, France
5. Palais Rohan – Strasbourg, France
6. Père Lachaise Cemetery – Paris, France
7. Sainte Chappelle – Paris, France
8. Cologne Cathedral – Cologne, Germany
9. Arlington National Cemetery – Virginia, USA
10. Brooklyn Bridge – Brooklyn, New York, USA
11. Graceland – Memphis, Tennessee, USA
12. Grand Central Terminal – New York, New York, USA
13. Library of Congress – Washington, D.C., USA
14. Monticello – Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Grand Total So Far: 30 

Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Spectacular Trips 
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(Photo courtesy of barnesandnoble.com)

England
1. London

Total: 1

Netherlands
1. Springtime in Holland – Lisse

Total: 1

United States
1. Blue Ridge Parkway – Great Smoky Mountains
2. Newfound Gap Road – Great Smoky Mountains
3. Fifth Avenue – New York City
4. Washington, D.C.

Total: 4

Inconclusive/Near-Misses
1. Alsace Wine Tour – Alsace, France (walked it, but didn’t drive through it, so I don’t think I can count it here)
2. Route des Abbayes – Rouen, France
3. Amish Culture and Crafts – Elkhart, Indiana, USA
4. Cullasaja River Gorge – Macon County, North Carolina, USA
5. Out of Houston – Houston, Texas, USA
6. Revolutionary Roads Tour – Concord to Lexington, Massachusetts, USA

Totals So Far: 6

Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations 
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(Photo courtesy of National Geographic Store) 

Belgium 
1. Shrine of St. Ursula – Bruges

Total: 1

England 
1. Salisbury Cathedral – Salisbury
2. Stonehenge – Wiltshire
3. University Church of St. Mary – Oxford
4. Westminster Abbey – London

Total: 4

France
1. Mont-Saint-Michel – Normandy
2. Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial – Normandy
3. Notre-Dame de Paris – Paris
4. Sacré-Cœur Basilica- Paris

Total: 4

Germany
1. Aachen Cathedral – Aachen

Total: 1

United States 
1. Ground Zero – New York, New York
2. Korean War Veteran’s Memorial – Washington, D.C.
3. March for Jobs and Freedom (National Mall) – Washington, D.C.
4. Old North Church – Boston, Massachusetts
5. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial – Washington, D.C.

Totals: 5

Inconclusive/Near-Misses
1. Menin Gate Memorial – Ypres, Belgium
2. Cenotaph – London, England
3. Père Lachaise Cemetery – Paris, France
4. Shrine of the Three Kings (Cologne Cathedral) – Cologne, Germany
5. Arlington National Cemetery – Washington, D.C., USA
6. Cemeteries of New Orleans – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
7. Mission Concepcion – San Antonio, Texas, USA
8. Rothko Chapel (University of Texas) – Austin, Texas, USA

Grand Total So Far: 15 

Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips
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(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com) 

England 
1. England’s Gardens – Windsor
2. London (film center)

Total: 2

France 
1. Cathedrals of France – Various
2. Eiffel Tower – Paris
3. Normandy Beaches – Normandy
4. Paris (film center)

Total: 4

Netherlands 
1. Dutch Bulbfields – Keukenhof

Total: 1

United States 
1. Empire State Building – New York, New York
2. Freedom Trail – Boston, Massachusetts
3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee/North Carolina
4. The Loop – Chicago, Illinois
5. Mammoth Cave National Park – Kentucky
6. The National Mall – Washington, D.C.
7. New York, New York (film center)
8. Staten Island Ferry – New York, New York

Totals:  8

Inconclusive/Near-Misses 
1. Battle of the Somme – France
2. Grand Masters Tour – Delft, Netherlands
3. Vieux Carré – New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Grand Total So Far: 15

Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems

(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com) 

Belgium 
1. Chateau d’Hassonville – Ardennes
2. Le Chatelain – Brussels
3. Our Lady’s Church – Bruges

Total: 3

United States 
1. Birding in Central Park – New York, New York
2. The Cherohala Skyway – Great Smoky Mountains
3. Willis Tower – Chicago, Illinois

Total: 3

Inconclusive/Near-Misses 
1. Begijnhof of Kortrijk – Kortrijk, Belgium
2. Lumina Domestica – Bruges, Belgium
3. City of London Churches – London, England
4. Chappelle Expiatoire – Paris, France
5. Ile des Cygnes – Paris, France
6. Foret de Brotonne – Normandy, France
7. Biltmore House – Asheville, North Carolina, USA
8. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Boston, Massachusetts, USA
9. National Garden – Washington, D.C., USA
10. Shining Rock Wilderness – North Carolina, USA

Grand Total So Far: 6

Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe
Product Details
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com) 

Belgium
1. Chocolate in Brussels – Brussels
2. French Fries in Ghent – Ghent
3. Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate – Brussels

Total: 3

England
1. London’s Restaurants – London

Total: 1

France 
1. Best Baguette in Paris – Paris
2. Paris (great food cities)

Totals: 2

United States
1. Indianapolis International Airport – Indianapolis, Indiana
2. Manhattan (great food cities)
3. New York’s Sidewalk Chefs – New York, New York
4. Tex-Mex in San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas

Inconclusive/Near-Misses
1. Belgium Taste in the Sky – Brussels, Belgium
2. Confiserie Temmerman – Ghent, Belgium
3. London’s Food Halls – London, England
4. Paris Pastry Hunt – Paris, France
5. Chicago Style – Chicago, Illinois, USA
6. Patrenella’s – Houston, Texas, USA

Grand Total So Far: 10 

Yes, repeats have been included, but hey, it still counts, right? I’m pleasantly surprised how spread out some of these are anyway. Here’s to more travels in the near future.

Updates can be posted as necessary.