Monthly Archives: April 2017

1978 FIFA World Cup: Argentina

Argentina was awarded the World Cup in 1966. Say what you want about FIFA, but they had no way of knowing that the Argentinian government would stage a coup, mixing together one of the ugliest (albeit successful) blends of sports and politics in the history of either one. While the Albiceleste finally had their first title, many still argue it only could have happened on home soil. It was also the last really small-scale World Cup, as the 1980s would bring about expansion, color TV, and a global boom to the beautiful game.

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(The 1978 World Cup logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

1978 FIFA World Cup 

Host: Argentina 

Champion: Argentina 
Runner Up: Netherlands 
Third Place: Brazil 
Fourth Place: Italy 

Leading Scorer: Mario Kempes, Argentina (6 goals) 

The logo you see above was based on Juan Peron’s symbol of pride in Argentina – both arms extended over his head. The logo was adopted in 1974, and many were content. But only two years later, Peron had died and a new military dictatorship known as the National Reorganization Process, or more simply the junta, came into power after a coup. The head of state was Jorge Rafael Videla, who kept his power alive in what became known as La Guerra Sucia – “The Dirty War. ” During the junta, four leaders were in power from 1976-83, but Videla’s reign was the longest – and probably the worst.

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(Jorge Rafael Videla mixed politics and sports after seizing power in Argentina. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

In the two years before the Cup, anywhere from 15,000-30,000 people were forced to disappear for opposing the government. Many never came back. As a result, some teams – like the Netherlands – threatened to withdraw before the tournament even started. Still, the money retained by the government was put back into infrastructure, with the rallying cry to the people of “20 million Argentinians will play in the World Cup.” Many weren’t buying it, and came up with their own slogan: “20 million Argentinians will pay for the World Cup.” Amid fears of lawsuits and backlash, the junta relented and kept the logo as it was.

Johan Cruyff mysteriously didn’t accompany his teammates to Argentina. Whether it was politics, family reasons, or just plain lack of interest, he would be severely missed in that lineup. Fortunately, they kept most of the same players, like Johnny Rep and Rob Rensenbrink. They were still a strong team, with or without Cruyff. Again, Belgium was drawn in with them, but it was no contest this time, as the Oranje finished five points clear of the Red Devils.

Both Argentina as hosts and West Germany as champions qualified automatically. Hungary would beat Bolivia 9-2 in a two-game playoff to win the intercontinental playoff. Brazil and Peru qualified, and Teofilo Cubillas got another chance to play for the FPF. Despite a 4-0 win on the last day over Cyprus, Portugal missed out by two points, which instead went to Poland, the reigning third place team. Italy and England were drawn together, and both won five and lost one. Ultimately, the Azzurri advanced on goal difference (winning 3-0 in their final game to boot), and England failed to qualify for the second straight time. Austria narrowly edge out East Germany, and France won 3-1 over Bulgaria on the final game to advance. Sweden and Spain won their groups, and Scotland emerged from their group, which included rival Wales and defending Euro champions Czechoslovakia.

Fervor was higher than ever for Scotland fans; it was arguably their best team. But a lot of that came from their brash, confident (some may say cocky) manager. His introductory press conference said it all about him: “My name is Ally MacLeod and I am a winner.” MacLeod gave Scotland hope that maybe they could rise above themselves, and his upset of England gave them a sense of schadenfreude, if not necessarily outright confidence. MacLeod predicted Scotland would take at least third place, and many in Scotland thought they could win it all. This led musician Andy Cameron to release a novelty song known as “Ally’s Tartan Army.” Cameron said that Scotland would “really shake ’em up, when we win the World Cup, ’cause Scotland are the greatest football team!!” Many outside of Scotland just laughed at this prediction. Still, they had some fine players – Kenny Dalglish, Archie Gemmill, Graeme Souness, and Willie Johnston.

(The infamous rally song “Ally’s Tartan Army” led to Scotland optimism, or perhaps delusion. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

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(Scotland manager Ally MacLeod. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

In North America, Mexico returned after an absence, winning all five matches in a six-team group that included Haiti, El Salvador, Canada, Guatemala, and Suriname (which is located in South America, by the way, but plays in CONCACAF in an attempt to qualify easier; Guyana is the same way).

Two newcomers qualified in 1978 – Iran qualified in Asia/Oceania, winning against Australia 1-0 in Tehran when Ghafour Jahani scored the winner in the 44th minute. One year before the Shah was overthrown, Iran would get their chance to show the world. The other first-timer was Tunisia, emerging from the African zone, who beat rivals Egypt 4-1 in their capital city of Tunis to put them in, and knock Egypt out (a draw would have been enough for them). Along the way, Tunisia (a.k.a. The Eagles of Carthage) got revenge on their archrival Morocco. FIFA instituted penalty kick shootouts in 1976, and in a head-to-head matchup earlier in qualifying, Morocco suffered the ignominy of being the first team in history eliminated from qualifying by losing that way.

For the first team, penalties would decide drawn matches in the knockout stage, if necessary. For the final time, sixteen teams would compete, with the top two advancing to a second group stage. Teams received two points for a win and one point for a draw.

The teams were as follows (listed in order of seeding): Argentina, Italy, Hungary, France in Group 1; West Germany, Mexico, Poland, and Tunisia in Group 2; Brazil, Sweden, Spain, and Austria in Group 3; and Netherlands, Peru, Scotland, and Iran in Group 4.

The competition 
Group 1 
In the Italy-France match, things started really well for Les Bleus, as Bernard Lacombe scored within the first sixty seconds. But France wouldn’t get another one for the rest of the match, and Italy rallied back, getting the equalizer (29′) from a 21-year-old named Paolo Rossi. Let’s just say you’ll hear from him again. After that 1-1 scoreline held up through halftime, Italy won in the 54th minute through Renato Zaccarelli.

The hosts were given a scare when they went down 0-1 to Hungary after only 10 minutes. But only five minutes later, it was 1-1, and the Albiceleste won in minute 83 when Daniel Bertoni beat the keeper. Argentina had survived. For many, it was proof that they couldn’t buy a championship…at least in theory. Argentina won their second game over France, 2-1, with captain Daniel Passarella scoring a penalty right before halftime, and then Leopoldo Luque added a second, sandwiched around a French equalizer from a future star named Michel Platini. Italy beat Hungary 3-1. In the final match, Argentina were stunned, losing 0-1 to Italy to finish second in the group. Maybe it wouldn’t be enough to win on reputation alone. France managed to salvage some pride by winning 3-1 over Hungary. Italy won the group and Argentina qualified in second.

Group 2 
Just like Scotland, Mexico had high expectations of their own. After the opening match ended in a scoreless draw between West Germany and Poland, Mexico seemed to have a good shot to do some damage. They also had a young Hugo Sanchez, who eventually became a superstar. Right before halftime, Arturo Vazquez Ayala scored on a penalty to put El Tri up 0-1. But then the roof caved in – Ali Kaabi hit the equalizer (55′), and then two goals in the final eleven minutes led Tunisia to an upset 3-1 victory. It was the first victory by an African team in the World Cup.

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(Tunisia became the first African team to win a game in the Cup, upsetting Mexico 3-1 on June 2. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

As it turned out, Mexico’s collapse was only beginning. They were humiliated 6-0 by the West Germans in Cordoba, and lost 3-1 to Poland to complete their shocking three-loss campaign. After losing to Poland, Tunisia battled West Germany to a 0-0 draw as well. It wasn’t enough to qualify, but the Eagles of Carthage did reasonably well in their first appearance. Sadly, it would take them 20 years to get back. Poland shockingly won the group with two wins and a draw, while West Germany had a win and two draws to take second.

Group 3
Many could see this as a toss-up group. Austria beat Spain 2-1, breaking the tie with just under fifteen minutes to go. Brazil and Sweden earned a 1-1 draw, with both goals coming in the final ten minutes of the first half. But the Brazilians could have won outright, if not for a controversial call from Welsh referee Clive Thomas. Towards the end of extra time, Brazil won a corner kick. The ball came in and Zico got to it. He put it in the net, and it should have been the winner – except Thomas blew his whistle to end the game while the ball was in the air. The furious Brazilians crowded around him, but he wouldn’t be persuaded. No goal. Match over. Under the laws of FIFA, the referee does have discretion, but many felt it was too impulsive on Thomas’ part. In any event, Sweden had a point, but they wouldn’t get any more for the tournament. Austria and Spain both beat them 1-0, while Brazil slogged to a scoreless draw with Spain before beating Austria 1-0. Austria still won the group in a slight upset, but it was enough to get Brazil through as well. Spain finished third, but it wasn’t enough to get them through.

Group 4 
Now it was time for Ally’s Army to prove their worth. They opened against Peru, and took the lead early (14′) through Joe Jordan. But two minutes before halftime, Cesar Cueto pulled a goal back for the Peruvians. Many thought that an injury to back Danny McGrain would hurt the Scottish team. Others thought that MacLeod made a tactical mistake by leaving Graeme Souness on the bench. And sure enough, it was proven true, as Teofilo Cubillas scored twice in the second half, and Scotland’s Don Masson missed a penalty with thirty minutes to go that would have put them up 2-1. The critics were proven right as Peru won 3-1. On top of that, the first Cubillas goal came off of a gorgeous free kick. Everybody had underestimated Peru, but they were the better team. Numerous excuses were given, from boredom to a pay dispute, to various reasons of vanity. In any case, MacLeod called the performance “rank bad.”

It was about to get worse. After the first game, forward Willie Johnston took a pill to aid with a cold. However, it turned out it contained Reactivan, a banned stimulant. Johnston was expelled from the World Cup, and given a one-year ban by FIFA.

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(Scotland’s Willie Johnston was sent home from the Cup for taking a banned substance. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

(Teofilo Cubillas’ free kick gave Peru the lead and the win. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The Netherlands won their match 3-0 over Iran, with Rob Rensenbrink getting a hat trick, two of them on penalty kicks. In their next match, it was 0-0 with Peru. Scotland played Iran and needed a win to get back into it. They looked to be able to do so, taking the  halftime lead (43′) through an Iran own goal by Andranik Eskandarian. But seventeen minutes later, Iraj Danaeifard would earn Iran a precious equalizer. The scoreline held and finished 1-1. This was supposed to be Scotland’s easiest match, and they had choked again. Danaeifard became a hero in Iran, getting his country’s World Cup goal.

In the final matches, Peru beat Iran 4-1, with a hat trick by Cubillas making all the difference. Scotland had one last match left, against the Netherlands. They were severe underdogs. To advance, they had to not only win, but by at least three goals. If they couldn’t beat Iran, they were thought to have no chance against Netherlands.

This time, MacLeod inserted Graeme Souness into the lineup, and immediately saw a different Scotland team than in previous games. The Dutch took the lead on a Rensenbrink penalty (34′) before Kenny Dalglish hit the equalizer one minute before halftime. One minute after the break, midfielder Archie Gemmill stunningly put the Scottish team into the lead. If his first goal was unexpectedly, his second goal was spectacular.

68 minutes in, Gemmill got the ball near the Dutch end. He played a one-two with Dalglish, and sprinted past the Dutch defenders into the box. He fired a shot with his left foot…and in!! Gemmill gave the Scottish hope again. Now qualification was within their reach.

(Archie Gemmill scored for Scotland in one of the best goals of the ’78 Cup. Photo courtesy of YouTube.) 

Alas, it was not to be. The Dutch pulled one back three minutes later, after Johnny Rep put one past the Scottish keeper. Now Scotland had to score at least two more times. They wouldn’t get there. Scotland held on to win 3-2, but they were eliminated on goal differential, with Netherlands sneaking in and Peru winning the group. MacLeod surprisingly survived the scrutiny from the press, but resigned after only one more match. Ally MacLeod may have been a winner, but his hubris got in the way.

Knockout stages 
Group A
For the second time, a second round-robin group was staged. Austria fell 1-5 to Netherlands, after Johnny Rep contributed two goals and Rob Rensenbrink scored one of his own. Cruyff or no Cruyff, the Dutch showed little sign of slowing down. Italy and West Germany played to a scoreless draw in their first match. In a rematch from four years earlier, Netherlands-West Germany faced off. Despite a third minute goal from Rudiger Abramczik, Arie Haan equalized before the half hour mark. Each team scored once in the second half as well, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw. It wasn’t a victory, but the Dutch still got a measure of revenge by not losing. Italy then defeated Austria 1-0 behind a goal from Paolo Rossi. At first, it didn’t seem like much, but let’s just say you’ll hear his name again.

The final matches were both spectacular. Austria and West Germany faced off in Cordoba. Austria was out but the other three teams still had a chance to play in the third place game or final. While the Netherlands-Italy game was going on, West Germany went up 1-0 in the 19th minute. The scoreline held up through halftime. But then an own goal by Berti Vogts shockingly leveled the score for Austria. Seven minutes later (66′), Hans Krankl shockingly put the Austrians ahead. But only two minutes after that, it was 2-2. It would be enough to get West Germany into the third place game if the scoreline held. But three minutes from time, Krankl broke through and scored his second goal. The scoreline held, and Austria pulled off a 3-2 upset. Depending on your perspective, it’s known alternatively as “The Miracle of Cordoba” or “The Disgrace of Cordoba.” Many German fans were furious. But for the Austrians, it still had meaning. Forty years after the Anschluss, they had their glorious revenge.

(Austria upset West Germany in the final game. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The Netherlands-Italy match was essentially the playoff for the final. Just like in the other game, the first goal came in the 19th minute, on an own goal by Dutch defender Ernie Brandts. Just like in the other match, the scoreline stayed that way at the half. But Brandts got a measure of revenge when we scored to level the score for the Dutch. This time, he put the ball in the correct net, and became the first player in the World Cup to score for both teams. The score held up for over twenty-five minutes. Then, with less than fifteen minutes to go, the Dutch had the ball. Midfielder Arie Haan (of Belgian club RSC Anderlecht) got the ball. He dribbled a few steps. And then, from forty yards out, he fired. The ball curved right to left towards the Italian goal. Dino Zoff was out of position. The ball clanged off the post – and then curved back to the left, resulting in one of the finest goals anybody had ever seen. It also proved to be the game-winner. The Dutch advanced to the final for the second straight Cup. Italy would still make the third place match. But Haan’s goal proved to be the stuff of legend. Come on you Mauves, indeed.

(Arie Haan scored a 40-yard goal to put the Netherlands back into the finals. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Group B 
Because Argentina didn’t win their group, they were forced to play the second round in Rosario instead of Buenos Aires. But they had some help along the way, both from FIFA and from others. In the first match, Argentina won 2-0 over Poland. Legend has it that Argentina’s best player, known as El Pibe (The Kid), is given the number 10 jersey. Those who wear the jersey are said to carry the brunt of the country’s expectations. Before Messi and Maradona, there was one man. While he had a slow start, the 1978 version of El Pibe was Mario Kempes. He had a brace to jump start the Argentinians to victory. Peru fell apart in this round, losing 0-3 to Brazil, after Dirceu had a brace of his own before 30 minutes, and the legendary Zico added one of his own.

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(Mario Kempes was the star for Argentina in the knockout stages. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

Poland managed to beat Peru 1-0 in the next game. Arch-rivals Argentina and Brazil played for the first time in the World Cup on June 18, and played to a scoreless draw. Then the conspiracies started. And many in Brazil are still furious today.

At the time, FIFA didn’t institute simultaneous kickoffs for the final group stage games. Therefore, if both Argentina and Brazil had the same result, it would come down to goal difference. At the time, it favored Brazil. They did their part, beating Poland 3-1 behind two goals from Roberto Dinamite, and surviving a late first-half equalizer from Grzegorz Lato, the leading scorer in 1974. Argentina had played their other two games at night in this stage. FIFA allowed them to do the same against Peru in this one. Following Brazil’s win, they looked to be in the final. To qualify ahead of them, Argentina not only had to win, but they also had to do so by at least four goals. For what it was worth, Peru goalkeeper Ramon Quiroga was born in Argentina…and before the match, Videla had a meeting with Henry Kissinger in the locker room.

The match was a disaster for Peru. Mario Kempes started the scoring (21′), and Alberto Tarantini made it 2-0 two minutes before halftime. They still needed two more goals. And in a two minute span, they got them, as Kempes scored his second (49′) and Leopoldo Luque added the fourth just one minute later. Now Argentina was in the finals if the score held. But they weren’t taking any chances. The barrage continued, with Rene Houseman making it 5-0 (67′). Five minutes later, Luque hit a diving header for his second and Argentina’s sixth. The final score was 6-0, and Argentina kept its dream alive. But rumors of match fixing were everywhere. The Peruvians weren’t great, but they weren’t that bad. Rumor had it that Argentina bribed Peru to lose by offering them grain, forgiveness on a debt, and a cache of weapons. Later, this was confirmed as absolutely true by the Peruvians. They had sold their soul to push their rival team through. Perhaps Argentina could, in fact, buy a championship.

(Argentina won 6-0 to advance to the final. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Third place match 
Brazil was furious to be relegated to the third place match. They fell behind early to Italy when Franco Causio (38′) scored. But in the second half, a great shot by Nelinho (64′) made it 1-1. Initially looking like a cross, Nelinho himself later admitted he was shooting. Nineteen minutes from time, Dirceu made it 2-1 to give Brazil third place. Manager Claudio Coutinho dubbed them “moral champions,” after not losing a game (remember Argentina had lost to Italy in the group stage).

Netherlands had lost four years earlier to the host nation. Now, they had a chance for revenge. But Argentina was pulling out all the stops. The bus driver took the long way to the stadium, and when they arrived onto the pitch, Argentina wasn’t there. They were forced to wait five minutes as the Argentina fans worked themselves into a frenzy. Finally, the home team came out to a chorus of cheers. More controversy was to come before the ball had even kicked off.

The Dutch accused the hosts of stalling. This time, they asked the referee, Italy’s Sergio Gonella, to examine the wrist of Dutch midfielder René van de Kerkhof. In earlier games, he had worn a plaster cast to heal a wrist injury. This time, Gonella made him take it off. Netherlands came close to walking off the field in protest. A compromise was reached – van de Kerkhof could wear the bandage if more padding was applied.

The match finally kicked off. Neither team really took the initiative for the first half. Finally, Mario Kempes broke through for Argentina (38′). It was 1-0 for the host. The Dutch were running out of chances, and out of time. They couldn’t find the equalizer until late in the match, when second half substitute Dick Nanninga made it 1-1. With just over a minute to go, the Netherlands had a golden chance to win. Rob Rensenbrink got the ball, and had goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol beaten. It looked like it was in…and then deflected off the post at the last second. The Dutch had never come so close.

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(Rob Rensenbrink hit the post in the final minute of regulation. Photo courtesy of

Argentina was still in it. And in extra time, they made Netherlands pay for Rensenbrink’s miss. En route to winning the Golden Boot as the lead scorer, Mario Kempes hit his second (104′). Eleven minutes later, Daniel Bertoni added a clutch insurance goal. It never got that close again. The whistle blew. For many, the bad guys had won. Argentina were champions. But for many, the way in which they did it left a sour taste in their mouth.

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(Mario Kempes celebrates one of his two goals in the final. Photo courtesy of 

(Highlights of the 1978 World Cup final. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

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(As Argentina wins the World Cup, the fans celebrate. Photo courtesy of Daily Mail.) 

Fun Facts
Scotland’s Joe Jordan played with false teeth, and would remove them before every match.

Although Mario Kempes wore #10 and had a great World Cup, he was given the number almost by accident. At the time, Argentina assigned their jersey numbers in alphabetical order. So, while Kempes wore the number well, it was a coincidence. As a result of this policy, midfielder Norberto Alonso wore #1 and starting goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol wore #5 (and #7 in 1982), and backup goalkeeper Hector Baley was #3. Similarly, Dutch goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed wore #8.

Argentina’s chain-smoking manager Cesar Luis Menotti was criticized for cutting a 17-year-old rising star off the roster, fearing the youngster wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. He was Diego Armando Maradona.

As part of the fan participation side, the Argentina matches frequently saw the pitches littered in confetti (watch some of the game footage and you’ll see how much of it was there).

In 1987, Irish rock band U2 released the album The Joshua Tree. The final song, “Mothers of the Disappeared,” was a reference to the forced disappearance by the junta. In 1998, in a concert in Buenos Aires, some of the aforementioned mothers were invited on stage, with many asking for closure. The band turned to the mothers and applauded, and the audience followed suit. (They tried the same thing in Santiago, Chile as well, but the reception was more mixed.)

Rob Rensenbrink’s goal versus Scotland was the 1,000th in World Cup history.

Archie Gemmill’s goal was also mentioned in the 1996 film Trainspotting (I won’t go into the detail of the scene, but it’s a classic if you can find it).

Argentina captain Daniel Passarella later became coach in 1998, and refused to take players with long hair or earrings. Several players had to cut their hair and/or remove their jewelry in order to make the team.

Final Thoughts 
Argentina finally had their coveted title. But whether they obtained it fairly was another matter. As the years went on, they became the team that most people rooted against, due to cynical fouling and cheating. With Maradona on the horizon, Argentina would wear a target on their back for the next decade.

References and Sources 
Getty Images
World Cup Heaven and Hell (ITV documentary)
50 Greatest World Cup Moments (ITV documentary)
Trainspotting (1996 film)
The Joshua Tree (U2 album)
World Soccer. 

Daily Mail
Soccer Men
(Simon Kuper)
The Ultimate Book of Sports Lists (Andrew Postman, Larry Stone)
Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football (David Winner)
Angels with Dirty Faces: How Argentinian Soccer Defined a Nation and Changed the Game Forever (Jonathan Wilson)
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)


The old town(e) teams

This weekend, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs play each other in a three-game series at Fenway Park. The Red Sox took the first game of the series, 5-4, surviving a late Cubs rally to win. Tomorrow, April 29, marks the 31st anniversary of Roger Clemens’ first 20-strikeout game against the Seattle Mariners. I was on the Cubs’ blog, an excellent site called The Red Sox one,, is just as good. One article’s author mentioned how interconnected the two franchises are.

The Red Sox and Cubs have played each other once in the World Series, in 1918. It seemed somewhat apropos that the Red Sox would begin their 86-year drought by beating a team that would have a longer drought. Over the years, the similarities came to fruition. Both were rumored to be jinxed by curses, real or imagined. Both play in ballparks that may be considered national treasures now, but have had their moments where the sustainability was questioned. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both teams have broken droughts with Theo Epstein in the front office. Not only does Epstein have a shrewd baseball mind, at least in my opinion, but he also understood the value of blending the modern with the classic. I think it’s also telling that both clubs won a World Series within two years of beginning substantial reservations. The Monster seats that now adorn the left field fence aren’t even fifteen years old (dating back to approximately 2003). Similarly, the Cubs finally put in a JumboTron, and did other renovations (sorry I can’t think of any examples, I don’t know the nooks and crannies of Wrigley Field as well as I should). Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley played for both teams, and incidentally, was sent to the Cubs in a trade that landed Bill Buckner in Boston. Much was made of the fact that when Buckner made his error, he was wearing a Cubs batting glove underneath his regular glove.

Fairly or not, the two teams are united in their previous failures, glorious and disastrous. Many people see this as a potential World Series matchup. And for many of the experts, the two teams were said to be so evenly matched that it was said to be a toss up. But neither team has started as well as hoped – they’re both 12-10, and while the teams are still feeling each other out, neither team has broken away early, as some expected them to. But it’s a long season, as the cliche goes. On Bleed Cubbie Blue, the posters talked about the respect they had for Boston fans, and the feelings were reciprocated. Various other Cubs fans chimed in about going to Fenway Park in the past and singing along to “Sweet Caroline.” I’m sure Red Sox fans would do the same thing in Wrigley for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” At some point, tradition just takes over.

These are two great baseball towns. Others exist, sure – St. Louis is definitely one, with many Cardinals fans being very down-to-earth (or so I’ve heard); Dodger fans may leave early, but given the traffic, I think they can get a pass. Even the Yankees have their famous (some might infamous) Bleacher Creatures. But nowhere else in the game besides Fenway and Wrigley can you get the blue-collar, dye-in-the-wool passion as these two teams have. The author of the article, Sara Sanchez, said of the two teams, “This, sadly, has never been a conflict.” It’s Lake Michigan and the Charles River. It’s blue and red in slightly different shades. This is baseball at its finest. This is the way it should be.

In an era where we may not know what the term means anymore, there are still two slices of Americana. And long may they last.

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The music’s in me! A questionnaire

Similar to the movie list I did, here is a music questionnaire. Anyone is welcome to read and participate. To make it interesting, I like the one answer rule. All these are purely my opinion.

1. Favorite artists and/or band 

2. Artist/band you like the least 

3. Artist/band that you like that nobody expects you to like
Sheryl Crow

4. Band/artist that a lot of others like that you’re not into 
Dave Matthews Band

5. Favorite song by your favorite artist/band 
“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” (R.E.M.)

6. Favorite song by an artist other than your favorite
“Take Five” (Dave Brubeck Quartet)

7. First album you remember listening to 
Abbey Road – The Beatles

8. What’s on your CD player right now?
Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits (Dave Brubeck) 

9. First concert you attended, and the venue 
A Cajun band called Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys at the Buskirk-Chumley

10. Total number of concerts you’ve seen 
Four (4)

11. Favorite concert 
Ed Sheeran at Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, IN

12. Least favorite concert 
Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan at Assembly Hall; Elvis Costello was pretty good, but I wasn’t into Bob Dylan at all

13. Most recent concert chronologically 
Ed Sheeran

14. Favorite lyric
“And you’re high on your high-flying cloud/Wrapped up in your magic shroud/As ecstasy surrounds you.” – “Beside You” (Van Morrison)

15. What song are you listening to right now? 
“My Favorite Mistake” – Sheryl Crow

16. Most recent album you listened to all the way through 
The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) – The Beatles

17. Album you like from a band/artist you’re not into that much 
The Joshua Tree – U2

18. Album you dislike from a band/artist you really like 
Hate to put it on here, but The Cranberries’ Wake Up and Smell the Coffee 

19. Album you really disliked despite high expectations
21 (Adele)

20. Album you liked that you weren’t expecting to 
Here’s Little Richard (Little Richard)

21. I’ve gotta ask it, children of the ’90s – Backstreet Boys or N’Sync? 
Backstreet Boys

22. Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera? 
Christina Aguilera

23. You get a singer, bass player, guitarist, and a drummer. Who do you put in your lineup? 
Michael Stipe – vocals
Paul McCartney – bass
Carlos Santana – guitar
Dave Grohl – drums

24. Guitar, bass, or drums?

25. For everybody that was in a choir: your favorite memory? 
If I had to pick one, it would be making All-State Vocal Jazz Ensemble senior year of high school, one of only 24 people in the entire state of Indiana.

10 Most Extreme Airports – my list

A few years ago on the History Channel, they did a program called Most Extreme Airports. So, I wanted to see my own list. Some will be repeats from that list (which you can find on video sites, I’m sure). I’ll also do some honorable mentions. This is not to say don’t go to these airports, but just be aware. Some of you may have done one of them already. Additionally, the ones that are repeats from the list on TV will be indicated as well. The ranking and the selections are my opinion only. If you have any of your own, please let me know. I’d love to do a part 2.

Honorable Mentions 
A. Mataveri International Airport 
Location: Rapa Nui, Easter Island
Rank on TV List: N/A 

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Photo courtesy of 

Mataveri is officially the most remote airport in the world. Only two airports will be able to fly you there on a regular basis – Santiago, Chile and Papeete, Tahiti. From time to time, Lima, Peru also serves the area, but only on a seasonal basis. And just to get there is at least six hours from Santiago (over 2,300 miles) and from Tahiti, it is a longer distance, 4,200 miles for a flight that’s about an hour shorter. Additionally, given Rapa Nui’s bowl shape layout, getting there might be a risk itself. Still, given the famous moai that inhabit the island, and the fact that it was considered as a potential bail out sight for the Space Shuttle means that it may be worth taking the risk.

BJuancho E. Yrausquin Airport
Location: Saba, Netherlands Antilles
Rank on TV List: N/A 

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Technically, the Netherlands Antilles doesn’t exist anymore, but Saba seemed too short to put on its own. This one I haven’t seen much about, but it does officially have the shortest runways in the world at 1,312 feet (400 meters) long. As a result, jet airliners are forbidden from flying there, because there’s not enough room. Also, judging from the picture, it seems like you could end up in the water if you misjudge it. Only one main airlines – Winair based in nearby Sint-Maarten – is enough to fly there (and, mild spoiler alert: Sint-Maarten will be seen again on this list).

C. Barra Airport 
Location: Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Rank on TV List: N/A

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Photo courtesy of 

Barra Airport, on the outskirts of Scotland, has a short runway of about 800 meters (2,621 feet), and it lands on a beach, as you can see. The potential dust and rock fragments can be harmful and potentially damage windows. Additionally, there are thee runways, organized in the shape of a triangle. Many seem to like this, though, as they put aside the potential overcast weather and beach effects.

D. San Diego International Airport 
Location: San Diego, California 
Rank on TV List: #10 

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Photo courtesy of 

Formerly known as Lindbergh Field, the airport’s runway is much smaller than its size should indicate. And the runway is the only one in the airport. In fact, it is the largest single-runway airport in America. So, imagine the traffic. San Diego’s weather plays a factor – May and June tend to be very foggy. And the terrain is very scary – you’re flying very close to skyscrapers and residential areas on the descent. The scariest part, however, is the parking garage that is less than 600 feet from the runway. And the garage itself is 100 feet high. Which one was built around which, I’m not sure of, but it’s a little close for comfort than I’m sure many people admit to. Still, many San Diego residents identify the airport as part of the city – a proposal in 2006 for a new airport was struck down.

And now, here’s the list in descending order:

10. Ice Runway 
Location: McMurdo Station, Antarctica 
Rank on TV List: N/A 

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Photo courtesy of 

Okay, okay. Technically, this isn’t an airport, per se. But still, imagine having to land on a runway made of ice. Also, because there are no official airports or people to maintain it, you can really never be sure if there’s an official length of the runway. It could go on forever, theoretically. But the biggest issue is that the planes are so heavy – Lockheed and Boeing both flying there  – and loaded with cargo that many of the planes sink into the ground. Even if it’s only slightly, it’s still an unexpected surprise. This one didn’t make the original list, but I think it’s worthy of inclusion.

9. Gustaf III Airport 
Location: St. Jean, Saint Barthélemy
Rank on TV List: #3 

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Photo courtesy of 

Known colloquially as “St. Barth’s,” you can see the water at the end of the runway. It’s short at 2,133 ft (650 m) and rolls downwards on a steep gradient very quickly after flying over local traffic. An amateur pilot came very close to hitting the water, but fortunately missed. Considering that the History Channel show had this at #3, you may be surprised to find it this low. But I think there were others that were undervalued, and the list could have gone numerous ways. It’s on the list, but there are others I think deserve to be higher. Also, because commercial airlines are too large to fly there, I’ll give it some slack on that front.

8. Princess Juliana International Airport
Location: Simpson Bay, Sint-Maarten
Rank on TV List: #4

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Photo courtesy of 

Amazingly enough, Sint-Maarten and Saint Barthélemy are very close to each other geographically. But Sint-Maarten has its own interesting history. As the photo shows, it flies very close to the beach. In fact, its force is so strong it can knock people into the water! Many even do it as a thrill seeking activity. Fortunately, no major incidents have occurred, but it seems like the luck will run out eventually. Additionally, taking off has its own challenges, as there’s a sharp turn to avoid a mountain at the other end of the runway. For many pilots, the beginning is the hardest part. Sint-Maarten is obviously a Caribbean vacationing hot spot, so it’s obviously going to have a significant amount of traffic.

7. Gibraltar International Airport: 
Location: Gibraltar 
Rank on TV List: #5 

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Photo courtesy of 

Gibraltar is on this list for one main reason – the runway is surrounded by a four-lane highway. They put up guards similar to a train crossing, but many still don’t take the warning seriously until they’re in the moment. Additionally, many thrill seekers play it closer than they should. Part of the reason for this is due to the space it’s flying in – because Gibraltar’s ownership is disputed between Spain and the United Kingdom, many Spanish authorities have limited the amount of airspace. As a result, the pilot is forced to go around the Rock of Gibraltar, which is a lot wider than many people give it credit for. And the Iberian Peninsula is foggy and windy; wind deflecting off the rock creates unusual patterns. It’s only 1,680 m long, or 5,511 ft. Most commercial airlines would like at least 8,000-9,000 feet.

6. Paro Airport 
Location: Paro, Bhutan 
Rank on TV List: N/A 

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

First of all, Bhutan itself is an isolated Buddhist kingdom wedged between China and India that is intent on preserving its heritage from outside influences. As a result, just getting into Bhutan can be tricky in and of itself – it costs about $250 a day. While the terminal is said to be very nice, it’s a one-runway location on the outskirts of the Himalayas. Flying in higher altitudes means reduced horsepower to begin with. The airport itself is surrounded by mountains that are up to 18,000 ft (5,500 m) high, and the airport itself it as least 7,300 feet high on its own. Because of Bhutan’s geography, and its reluctance to embrace technology, flights are not allowed to fly out at night. In fact, it’s believed that in the entire world, only eight pilots are licensed to fly there. There are four official airports in Bhutan, but this is the only one that flies internationally (and only as far as Bangkok), and the other three are all suspended as of this writing.

5. Funchal Airport 
Location: Santa Cruz, Madeira, Portugal 
Rank on TV List: #9 

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Photo courtesy of 

This one has to be high on my list – I’m not a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, and yet it’s now officially named after him. All kidding aside, Madeira is limited in where they could build. On one side, there’s the water, both from the Atlantic and local waters. In fact, the runway is said to extend slightly into the ocean officially. On the other side is a mountainous terrain, so there was very little that they could build around it. Bird strikes are more common here, and two major crashes took place one month apart in 1977. Wind shears also play a factor. But the runway is the scariest part, with it being just over 9,000 feet. As a result, the only thing to hold it up is concrete support slabs (seen in the photo). If you miss the runway, you could be in for some serious trouble.

4. Courchevel Altiport 
Location: Courchevel, France 
Rank on TV List: #7 

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Courchevel has the highest steepness gradient of any airport in the world, at 18.6%. Imagine a roller coaster-style runway, except there’s nothing fun about it. The runway is less than 1,800 feet long, and has no lighting aids. Therefore, landing in fog is virtually unheard of. Additionally, in order to get into the airport, they carved it into the mountain. Because of the mountains around it, they had to carve the runway into it. This is a very popular tourist spots in the French Alps, so there are ski runs nearby that don’t help it either. I’m a little surprised this was so low on the original program – it deserved much higher, and they barely covered it.

3. Toncontín International Airport
Location: Tegucigalpa, Honduras 
Rank on TV List: #2 

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Photo courtesy of

Toncontín has the shortest runway in the world for commercial flights, at only 7,096 ft (2,163 m). And much of that was only done ten years ago, when the runway was expanded by just under 100 feet. One pilot described it as the size of a postage stamp in relation to the plane. The short runway is only the beginning; non-Honduran citizens are taxed and extra $39.72 upon departure, and its own citizens are at $37. Both of these are considered to be the highest in the world. Poor weather makes it one of the steepest and trickiest landings – you fly over traffic to get in, and one pilot mistimed his landing, crashing onto a nearby street. Fortunately, only three people out of 124 inside the plane were killed, including the pilot (another two on the ground died as well). There are nearby mountains nearby that need to be avoided, and wind shears and low visibility due to frequent cloud bursts are common as well. Toncontín remains a scary place for many, and a lot of people don’t like to fly there. Even pilots themselves are terrified of this route.

2. Goma International Airport 
Location: Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo 
Rank on TV List: N/A 

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Photo courtesy of 

If there was one that was criminally snubbed on the original History Channel list, Goma is that snub. Democratic Republic of the Congo (the former Zaire) is already facing political and humanitarian conflicts, over people and natural resources, among others. But Goma is hurt by its location. This is what would terrify me. There is an active volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, in close proximity to the airport. Let me repeat that: There is an active volcano nearby. Located in nearby Virunga National Park, Nyiragongo erupted in 2002, spilling ash all the way down into Goma. Almost one-third of the runway was covered. Fifteen years later, it still is not operational. If you miss the volcano, you have Lake Kivu on the other side. It’s one of the deepest lakes in Africa, and because of how close it is to the volcano, the water is considered poisonous due to methane deposits. It’s one of three lakes in Africa (the other two are in Cameroon) that undergoes a limbic eruption – that is, it basically explodes from the inside, forming a gas cloud that can kill people and crops. It can also cause tsunamis as well. I don’t envy anyone who has to fly through Goma. I don’t think I could do it.

1. Tenzing-Hillary Airport
Location: Lukla, Nepal 
Rank on TV List: #1 

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images. 

Lukla was #1 on the TV list, and it’s #1 on mine as well. It has every terrifying thing you’d imagine these airports would have: high altitude, wind shears, a short runway, constantly changing weather, mountains, frequent turbulence, and a 12% uphill gradient. And there are probably others I’m forgetting. On top of that, it’s used more often than you’d think, as it connects to the base camp of Mount Everest. This airport is so extreme that once a pilot begins his descent, there is only one chance to get it right. If he misses, then there’s no chance to turn around and try again. Several passengers have called it the most terrifying experience in their life. In October 2008, a flight came up several yards short and crashed in front of the runway. Only the pilot survived. Because of the weather, a 2011 flight was delayed an entire week as a cloud burst rolled over Lukla. Like in Paro, only a certain number of pilots are certified to fly this route. Anybody who climbs Everest considers this a part of the trip. But the sheer terror of it is enough to scare even the hardiest flyer away.

Well, that’s my list. Has anybody flown to any of these airports? Did I forget any? I hope to get readers on this one. If you do fly any of these in the future, be aware of what’s facing you.

The forgotten qualifier

Because the OFC doesn’t have a guaranteed World Cup spot, many people consider Oceania the forgotten World Cup qualifier. New Zealand has already qualified to the two-legged final. The other group sees three teams competing – Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands. Tahiti has already played their games, winning two and losing two. Despite making the 2013 Confederations Cup, they need a lot of help to advance. There are two ways to get in – the other two teams draw twice, or they split and hope for goal differential. For that reason, I’m picking Papua New Guinea to advance to the final. They play well, and they seem to have a chip on their shoulder.

Every team that enters has a chance to qualify. Let’s remember some of the other teams, too. This is shaping up to be a great final run, which ends on June 13 (or at least the two finalists will be decided). I’m excited as a four-year journey comes to an end.

FIFA World Cup updates – April 2018

If we go by competitions, here’s how the World Cup would look so far.

Qualified (2) 
1. Russia (host)
2. Brazil

1. Iran
2. South Korea
3. Japan
4. Saudi Arabia

Playoff: Australia vs. Uzbekistan

1. DR Congo
2. Nigeria
3. Ivory Coast
4. Burkina Faso
5. Egypt

1. Mexico
2. Costa Rica
3. Panama

Playoff: United States

1. Brazil*
2. Colombia
3. Uruguay
4. Chile

Playoff: Argentina

New Zealand vs. Group B winner (Tahiti/New Caledonia/Papua New Guinea)

1. France
2. Switzerland
3. Germany
4. Serbia
5. Poland
6. England
7. Spain
8. Belgium
9. Croatia

Playoff (in order of points) 
1. Italy
2. Portugal
3. Greece
4. Ireland
5. Sweden
6. Northern Ireland
7. Iceland
8. Slovakia

1974 FIFA World Cup: West Germany

As the World Cup came around for the tenth time in its history, it seemed appropriate that the host country would get it in a time when political and social upheaval was going on. Several leaders would even blend the two together. But this is also remembered for one legendary team, and its star player, a temperamental midfielder whose command of the game was arguably among the best in history.

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(The 1974 FIFA World Cup logo. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.) 

1974 FIFA World Cup 

Hosts: West Germany 

Champion: West Germany 
Runner Up: Netherlands 
Third Place: Poland 
Fourth Place: Brazil 

Leading Scorer: Grzegorz Lato, Poland (7 goals)

The same year that they lost to the English in the controversial final, West Germany was selected as host of the 1974 Cup – in London, no less. In a rare agreement between bidders, Spain supported the bid in exchange for German support for the 1982 Cup; both sides kept their promise. Many were unsure of the West Germans as hosts – they could win, but they were seen by many as so robotic and stoic that many wondered if they could add the charm that hosting the Cup also required.

This is fascinating, actually. Many of the qualification storylines dwarfed the actual competition itself. 96 countries originally entered qualification, and several big names – England, Hungary, Portugal, Mexico, France, Czechoslovakia, and 1982 hosts Spain – all failed to make it. Spain was knocked out after losing in a playoff to Yugoslavia 1-0, having finished even on points and goal differential. Sweden beat Austria 2-1 in the German city of Gelsenkirchen to qualify the same way. The big story in UEFA was the birth of a new revolutionary style of play. It was called totaalvoetbal (Total Football), and it had been born in the Netherlands in approximately 1971 with club team Ajax going from a poor working class team to winning the UEFA Champions League three years in a row. The plan was simple – perpetual motion, with no players confined to a set position. Forwards were now expected to play defense on occasion, and defenders were encouraged to go forward. Even the goalkeeper was expected to be able to do more, like using his feet. The credit went in part to manager Rinus Michels, who was now coaching the Dutch team. But one man made it all go. Many of my dad’s generation still consider him their favorite player: Henrik Johannes “Johan” Cruijff (as much as I want to respect the original spelling, I’ll go by the other spelling, “Cruyff.”) Cruyff had lost his father at the age of twelve, and used it to guide him. He was outspoken, critical of imperfections, and had a tendency to be bossy. In fact, he forced Michels’ hand in selecting Jan Jongbloed as starting keeper instead of the more popular Jan van Beveren. But Cruyff got results. And a movement was born.

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(Johan Cruyff was not only an amazing player, but he and the Dutch revolutionized the game with their “Total Football” style of play. Photo courtesy of The Independent.) 

It almost didn’t happen. Netherlands and Belgium were drawn together. Not only had they contested what was called the “Low Countries Derby,” they had only one spot available. For Belgium, it was arguably their finest team to date (and had finished third in Euro ’72 as host), which makes it even more heartbreaking. Norway and Iceland had already been mathematically eliminated coming into the final head-to-head matchup on November 18, 1973 in Amsterdam. Both teams had four wins and a draw. The Belgians had to win to advance. Both teams had their chances, but nobody could score, including a wide open miss by Netherlands’ Johnny Rep. Finally, in the final minute of regulation, Belgium had a golden chance, winning a free kick right outside of the Dutch box. The cross was played in, and Belgium’s Jan Verheyen got there first. GOAL!! Except…the Soviet referee, a man named Kazakov, waved the goal off for offside. No goal. It looked like a blown call (all replays showed that Verheyen was an inch onside), and the match ended 0-0. The Dutch qualified on goal difference. What was even more painful for Belgium is that they became the first team eliminated without conceding a goal. But they only scored 12 times, and the Dutch scored 24 times and allowed 2 to advance. Belgium wouldn’t be back until 1982. If Verheyen’s goal had counted, perhaps the histories of each country may have changed forever.

(Highlights of the famous Netherlands-Belgium match in 1973. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

For the first and only time, the East Germans (DDR) also got in, winning their final match 4-1 over Albania in Tirana, knocking out Romania as a result. Poland beat England and Wales, and Bulgaria shocked Portugal to win the spot. Scotland advanced for the first time since 1958, Italy was their usual self, and the Soviet Union advanced to a playoff with Chile.

Unfortunately, the Soviets would never get there. They would face Chile, who had edged out Peru in a playoff in CONMEBOL. Earlier in 1973, Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende was overthrown (with many claiming American involvement) and was replaced by the brutal Augusto Pinochet. In a blend of football and politics, numerous political prisoners were taken to Estadio Nacional in Santiago, which had been turned into a makeshift concentration camp. From the time of the coup on September 11 until November 7, prisoners were killed inside the stadium where La Roja played their games.

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(Chile’s Estadio Nacional was turned into a prison camp by the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet. Photo courtesy of

Initially, Pinochet was reluctant to let Chile play against the Soviets, who didn’t back the coup. Finally, he relented on the condition that no political statements were made. Several members of the team, most notably forward Carlos Caszely, were staunch Allende supporters. The first match ended in a scoreless draw in Moscow.

Two weeks after Estadio Nacional was mostly cleared of prisoners, November 21, 1973, the Soviets were scheduled to play in Santiago. Not only had the first match been politically charged, but the Soviets were the better side and were furious to be held to such a result at home. FIFA did a walk-through of the stadium; although they were hidden, about 7,000 people were still held inside the rafters. During the match itself, those detained were sent into another prison in the Atacama Desert.

The Soviets claimed that the stadium was unfit for play, and didn’t travel. Initially FIFA was going to forfeit the match, then insisted that Chile kick off. With no opposition on the field, they passed it around for 30 seconds before captain Francisco Valdes scored into an empty net. Chile had qualified in arguably the easiest qualifying match ever played. Only 15,000 people were in attendance.

(Chile won 1-0 unopposed to qualify for the 1974 Cup. Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

Elsewhere in South America, Brazil qualified as champion, as did Uruguay and Argentina. In CONCACAF, Haiti qualified for the only time in their history, and they had a brutal dictator of their own – Jean-Claude Duvalier, nicknamed “Baby Doc.” Many believed that a witch doctor helped Haiti qualify, as they won a notorious match 2-1 with Trinidad and Tobago in Port-au-Prince; no fewer than four legitimate Trinidadian goals were ruled out, and the Salvadorian referee was later banned for life for bribery.

Two other first timers qualified. In the combined Oceania-Asia qualifier, Australia (“The Socceroos”) won 1-0 against South Korea in a neutral-site qualifier in Hong Kong. Lastly, Africa’s first sub-Saharan team qualified – the Leopards of Zaire, led by another authoritarian regime, headed by Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (loosely translated as “The warrior who knows no defeat because of his endurance and inflexible will and is all powerful, leaving fire in his wake as he goes from conquest to conquest”), or as he was known for short, Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu had seized power in 1965 after Joseph Kasa-Vubu was overthrown in a coup. The Zaire team was actually a good African side. But the gap was still wide with the rest of the world.

In one more twist, a young boy drew the balls for the groupings. Both German sides were drawn together in Group A, along with Chile and Australia. Also new was a second group stage, in which the winners made the final, and the runners-up played for third place. That would continue until 1982.

The competition 
Group 1 
The hosts opened on June 14 in West Berlin’s Olympiastadion. While they looked a little sloppy at times, particularly due to poor weather that plagued the tournament throughout, they managed to get a goal from Paul Breitner (18′) to beat Chile 1-0. During the match, Carlos Caszely set a record for being the first player to be red carded in a World Cup after a hard foul on Berti Vogts in the 67th minute.

(Carlos Caszely is the first red card in World Cup history. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

That same day, their East German rivals won 2-0 over Australia, their first coming on an own goal (58′) by Colin Curran. Joachim Streich added a second to spark the DDR.

West Germany won 3-0 over Australia in the next match, and Chile earned a measure of respect by drawing 1-1 with East Germany. The two underdogs drew 0-0 in the final match, allowing Australia to emerge with a point and Chile with two. But the two rival countries were about to face off.

For the match, played in Hamburg, East Germany sent their secret police along (the Stasi). In one of the most politically-charged matches in the history of sports, East Germany scored a victory for Communism with a 1-0 upset victory. The winning goal was scored by forward Jürgen Sparwasser (77′), who became a cult hero. East Germany used the goal for political profit, but Sparwasser himself was left out in the cold. As he put it, “Rumor had it I was richly rewarded for the goal, with a car, a house and a cash premium. But that is not true.” The West Germans would be forced to regroup tactically, as they still managed to get into the second round. But it was their rivals to the East that took the group win.

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(Jürgen Sparwasser, far left, scored the winner for East Germany against their rivals to the west. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

(Highlights of the match between East and West Germany. Video courtesy of YouTube.)

Group 2 
Opening one day earlier than West Germany, Brazil and Yugoslavia played to a scoreless draw in Frankfurt. In Dortmund, Scotland had been the butt of many jokes throughout the years. But against Zaire, they won 2-0, getting goals from Peter Lorimer (26′) and Joe Jordan (34′) to earn their first major World Cup victory. Whether by accident or design, Zaire’s inexperience showed, as numerous players wouldn’t or couldn’t stand still in a defending wall on free kicks, and one was even nearly booked for it by West German referee Gerhard Schulenberg. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t necessarily terrible. Unfortunately, in the next match, the Leopards would be turned into a punchline.

Coming into the World Cup, it seemed like Mobutu had only one edict – even if they couldn’t win the whole thing, all they had to do was not embarrass the country. But in their match against Yugoslavia in Gelsenkirchen, it would be a disaster. On his way to a hat trick, Dusan Bajevic scored in the eighth minute on a pretty header. Then Dragan Dzajic made it 2-0 (14′). Then, after 18 minutes, they were down 3-0 thanks to Ivica Surjak. Things got so bad that their chain-smoking manager Blagoje Vidinić, himself ironically a former player for Yugoslavia, pulled starting goalkeeper Mwamba Kazadi and replaced him with Ndimbi Tubilandu, the first time a goalkeeper was subbed out in a World Cup. Unfortunately, Tubilandu’s first touch of the ball would be picking it up out of the net, as Yugoslavia scored again off of a free kick one minute after Tubilandu came on. It was 6-0 at halftime, and the final score of 9-0 tied a record for the worst loss in World Cup history. As almost an afterthought, Brazil had another 0-0 draw, this one with Scotland. Many were surprised, because many of the same players from the 1970 team had returned.

Furious at his team, Mobutu took over team affairs for the final game. He laid down one rule: the Zaire players would be banished forever (and probably worse) if they lost by four or more goals. Many players got scared, having to play Brazil. But for once, their defense clamped down, and only trailed 1-0 at halftime when Jairzinho scored (12′). The Leopards looked more respectable. But Rivellino (66′) took a pass and scored around a blockade of green jerseys to make it 2-0. Thirteen minutes later, it looked like Zaire might lose it. In what looked like a cross, Valdomiro got a cheap goal after the ball rolled under the hands of Kazadi and into the net. Zaire had to keep the Brazilians off the board. Their lives – literally – depended on it.

Late in the match, Brazil won a kick outside of the Zaire box. Panic began setting in for Zaire. What if they scored? But then, one of the World Cup’s iconic moments occurred (albeit for the wrong reasons). Romanian referee Nicolae Rainea blew the whistle. Suddenly, Zaire defender Ilunga Mwepu burst from the wall and kicked the ball in the other direction. The announcer was shocked: “Now that’s a booking.” Sure enough, Mwepu received a yellow card for his action. By his own admission, he did it intentionally, because he wanted to get sent off to try to hurry and catch an early flight back to Kinshasa. In any event, Zaire kept the Brazilians from scoring again and breathed a sigh of relief. They escaped with their lives. But Mobutu still hurt them another way – none of the players received a penny for their efforts. After Scotland drew 1-1, each team had a win and two draws. Yugoslavia won the group, Brazil advanced on goal difference, and Scotland went home – the first team eliminated without losing a game.

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(Ilunga Mwepu created an iconic moment in World Cup history, accidentally or otherwise. Photo courtesy of

Group 3 
The Dutch had a chance to prove their theory worked. And using that style, they won 2-0 against Uruguay, after a brace by Johnny Rep. Sweden and Bulgaria drew 0-0 in their first match. In the Netherlands-Sweden match, which ended 0-0, Cruyff pulled off the legendary moment. Receiving a long ball from the other side of the field, juked around Swedish defender Jan Olsson and burst past him. It was the famous “Cruyff Turn.” Even forty years later, Olsson wasn’t upset about it, and seemed happy that he’d be remembered for something. A 1-1 draw between Bulgaria and Uruguay was the result of the other match.

(The famous “Cruyff Turn.” Video courtesy of YouTube.) 

The Dutch annihilated Bulgaria 4-1 (with Johan Neeskens scoring twice from the penalty spot) to top the group, and Sweden beat Uruguay 3-0 to take second place. The Dutch, in for the first time since 1938, were wowing the world with their brand of play.

Group 4 
Few gave Haiti much of a chance against Poland, Argentina, and Italy. But shockingly, they not only took the lead on Italy just after halftime through Emmanuel Sanon, but it snapped a record held by Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff, 1142 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal (roughly 12 consecutive international matches). Nevertheless, Italy rallied to win 3-1 (Gianni Rivera scoring the first goal for the Azzurri). Still, the moment was considered shameful for the Italians despite winning the game. It actually threw them off their game, drawing 1-1 with Argentina, and losing 2-1 to Poland, who took tops in the group. Argentina rallied to win their final game against Haiti 4-1 (who lost 7-0 to Poland) to sneak in. Once again, Italy was going home early. For Haiti, they also had to suffer another humiliation – player Ernst Jean-Joseph became the first player to be sent home from the Cup for failing a drug test, after the Italy game.

Knockout stage 
Group A 
The second group stage featured Netherlands, Brazil, East Germany, and Argentina in this group. As it turned out, East Germany jinxed themselves by winning the group. They lost 1-0 to Brazil and 2-0 to Netherlands and drew 1-1 with Argentina. The Dutch ran over the competition, winning 4-0 over Argentina (with Cruyff scoring twice), 2-0 over East Germany, and 2-0 over Brazil, who would play for third place. Total Football was in the final.

Group B 
The West Germans regrouped after losing to their neighbors. Gerd Müller picked right where he left off in 1970, scoring twice in this stage, and the hosts won all three matches. His winner (76′) against Poland put them into the final, and sent the Polish team to the third place match. Sweden and Yugoslavia went home in third and fourth, respectively.

Third place game 
In a pretty balanced match, Brazil and Poland faced off. En route to winning the Golden Boot (leading scorer) with seven goals in total, Grzegorz Lato scored the only goal (76′) for Poland, leading them to a surprise third place finish (although they had won Olympic gold in 1972, so it was Poland’s golden age).

Not only was it a matchup on the field, but the two countries had no love lost after World War II. Dutch player Ruud Krol’s father survived the war, and as a result, many consider this the best rivalry in Europe. Even in Germany, Netherlands is considered more of a rival than England is. But all was not well in the Dutch camp. On the bus to the stadium, the song that was usually played to psych them up mysteriously went missing. On top of that, Johan Cruyff was embroiled in a scandal of his own. On the night before the final, he was reportedly found with several beautiful German women in a hot tub, forcing him to apologize to his wife and fans in an attempt to do damage control. Whatever really happened, the scrutiny would affect Cruyff in the final.

Nevertheless, the final started well for the Netherlands. Kicking off in their orange jerseys, they passed the ball around for ninety seconds, toying with the German defenders. Finally, they went into the box. Penalty! And after only two minutes, Netherlands went up 1-0 when Johan Neeskens converted the penalty. Not a single German player had even touched the ball yet.

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(Johan Neeskens scores the opening goal for Netherlands in the final. Photo courtesy of FIFA.) 

However, maybe they started too well. Perhaps because of their rivalry, the Dutch seemed content to rest on their laurels. They abandoned their attacking style, trying to toy with the Germans. But they forgot to try to get a second goal. It would come at a price.

West Germany eventually got the ball in the Dutch area. Many believe that English referee Jack Taylor had a hand in the match. This time, the Germans played it into the Dutch box. The whistle blew. Reportedly, Franz Beckenbauer went over to Taylor and asked him to let bygones be bygones from the war. Taylor seemed to agree. Another penalty! 25 minutes in, Paul Breitner stepped up to take it…and scored! Suddenly, it was 1-1.

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(Paul Breitner scores for West Germany to equalize the game. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) 

There was one more flash in the first half. Two minutes before halftime, West Germany pushed and broke through the Dutch line. The ball found Gerd Müller. One last time, he fired, and it went in for a shock 2-1 West Germany lead. It was his fourteenth and last goal of his brilliant World Cup career.

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(Gerd Müller saved his best for last, scoring the second goal for West Germany, which turned out to be the winner. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.)

At halftime, that 2-1 scoreline held up. Perhaps seething at his team, or at himself, or for reasons unknown, Cruyff began arguing with referee Taylor as the teams came off the pitch. He kept going and eventually earned a yellow card for “talking for too long.” Dutch frustration began setting in.

Both sides had chances, and Müller thought he had a third, but it was ruled out for offside. Later in the match, a potential West German rally was denied a penalty when Taylor didn’t call a foul. The Dutch kept searching for an equalizer, but it never came. The final whistle blew. And perhaps the finest team ever to appear at the Cup – or one of them – fell one game short at the end.

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

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(Franz Beckenbauer lifts the new World Cup trophy after the hosts won the whole thing. Photo courtesy of ESPN FC.)

Fun Facts
German goalkeeper Sepp Maier was known for his Harlem Globetrotters-esque skills with the ball. He also wore oversize gloves and outlandish color combinations, but was a lethal weapon in goal.

Franz Beckenbauer would win the Cup in 1990 with West Germany, becoming only the second person to win as a coach and a player.

This was the first time that two penalties were awarded in the final match.

This is the first time of the reigning Euro champions winning the World Cup as well, and it’s happened only one time since (Spain EC 2008 and 2010; France did it the other way around, WC in 1998 and EC in 2000).

João Havelange, president of FIFA, alleged that this final was fixed along with 1966 in England so each host nation would win.

For the fourth and last time to date, no extra time was needed in the Cup.

In the Poland-Italy game, Italy’s only goal was scored by future England and Russia manager Fabio Capello, who led each team to the World Cup.

Despite Australia making their first appearance and earning a draw, they didn’t score any goals. They’d have to wait until 2006 to get back (also held in Germany, coincidentally). Haiti and Zaire lost all three games and never made the World Cup again, and East Germany never did either.

Johan Cruyff had his own specialized jersey for the Oranje. Although Adidas was the sponsor for the Dutch team, Cruyff himself was sponsored by Puma, so he played for the Netherlands without Adidas’ trademark triple stripes on the shoulders.

Chile’s Carlos Caszely, the first player red carded in the Cup, was known to play in matches without shin guards. He later used his influence to force Pinochet out in a vote in 1988. Upon losing, Pinochet claimed that the people had chosen Barabbas.

Paul Breitner was known as a devout Marxist.

During the celebrations, many West German players stayed away out of protest because their spouses weren’t allowed to join. During another celebration for the Dutch, Johan Cruyff reportedly met Juliana (Queen of the Netherlands) and demanded she lower taxes.

Final Thoughts 
For Johan Cruyff, it was his only World Cup appearance. He was in shape in 1978, but didn’t play for reasons that remain unexplained to this day. He died in March 2016, one month before turning 69. As great as he was, his turbulent nature may have cost the team at least one Cup, and maybe two. Total Football was now the law of the land. But the team that implemented it couldn’t quite finish it off.

References and Sources 
Getty Images.
The Independent
The Guardian 

The Opposition (ESPN 30 for 30 documentary)
World Cup Heaven and Hell (ITV documentary)
Missing (1982 film)
Soccer Men (Simon Kuper)
Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football (David Winner)
My Turn: The Autobiography (Johan Cruyff)
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)

My role of a lifetime

No matter how many roles I play in my acting career, if you want to call it that, no matter how many shows I do, whether it’s once, twice, however many times, no matter how long I do theatre and films, I am already playing my role of a lifetime. And it’s not even a role anymore.

That role is being able to pass as a “normal” person. And I’ve been told I play it well. As the years have gone on, I’ve stopped trying to convince people one way or the other. All I know is, this is the role I was born to play, whether I want to play it or not.

Another show is starting soon – As You Like It at the park. It’ll be my ninth Shakespeare show, and as far as how many I’ve done, I’ve lost track. It’s been at least twenty roles in various shows for various groups. It’ll be nice to re-establish the camaraderie with the people I’ve worked with, and to hopefully foster new relationships.

In a previous post, I wrote about my general dislike for the word “inspirational” or any of its derivatives. But I do make exceptions from time to time. One of these cases is Lamar Hardwick’s article on the website The Mighty. If he reads this, thanks for writing what you wrote. It’s a perfect metaphor for the actor in me.

And Mr. Hardwick is right – I am very tired. Some days, my life feels like I could be on my own version of The Truman Show. Just getting out of bed can be considered a victory. I don’t think people really consider how physical autism actually is. Don’t you think I’d love to be the sociable one at parties, or the one that can drive you home in a rainstorm, or have the courage to take the first step instead of hoping the other party takes it? Instead, I’m the one asking for rides, or walking so that I don’t have to bother the other person. I’m the one that usually stays home, or sits on the couch at parties. That’s a reason I never got into parties – when people use alcohol, there’s a disconnect there. I want something real….but parties aren’t the place to get that. Parties drain me. Walking doesn’t, because a lot of times, I know I don’t have to be anywhere. There’s no hurry. The roads, the sidewalks, the grass, or whatever, is mine to enjoy at my own pace.

This is a role and yet at the same time, it’s not a role. I’m not given a script, but boy, sometimes I wish I could have one. This is why I think I do dramatic parts better – it’s closer to my reality. One thing I’d like for my birthday (which is two months away as of yesterday) is for people to take me at my word more often. Most of the time, to do that doesn’t cost anything. So just trust me on this: sometimes, it just sucks, guys. My story isn’t necessarily going to be a “happily ever after.” You may want it, and I know there are a lot of times where I definitely want it, but maybe that’s not how my script was written.

At the same time, I do what I can in this role, and try to make it my own. I don’t think it was an accident that when I did high school choir (two years), it was for jazz. Even if I struggle with improvisation, the very nature of it is quite enjoyable. to me.

Those that read my posts on a regular basis know I like to quote things. I need to borrow somebody else’s words for a few seconds. I always make sure to give them back. In this case, I’ll give you the words of the legend himself, Mr. Freddie Mercury to conclude this one:

The show must go on! 
The show must go on! (Yeah-yeah!)
Inside, my heart is breaking 
My makeup may be flaking 
But my smile stays on. 

2017 NBA playoff schedule

Whew! My team (the Indiana Pacers) managed to sneak in on the final day. With both Chicago and Miami winning ahead of them, Indiana did the same, defeating the Atlanta Hawks 104-86 to take the #7 seed. There was controversy as Atlanta and Brooklyn (who lost to Chicago) rested players, but with Atlanta already locked in to the #6 and Brooklyn at the worst record in the league (20-62), I could see why they do it. Miami fans were understandably upset, but they had to win that one game to push them over the top, and they still couldn’t do it. The Heat actually still do set a record by having the greatest mid-season turnaround by record: from 11-30 to 41-41.

Anyway, now that all the playoffs are set, here’s a matchup of all the first round. Teams will be listed by who has the higher seed. All predictions are mine alone. I am no expert, I’m just going by what I’ve seen.

(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Chicago Bulls
Boston, on paper, doesn’t really feel like a number one team. They have a good coach in Brad Stevens and a potential superstar in the making in Isaiah Thomas (no relation to the Pistons and IU star), but other than that, there’s a very blue collar quality to this team. Still, Boston making the finals isn’t that impossible – they do have history on their side. And, to be honest, I’ll take anybody to knock LeBron off his perch. The Bulls rallied to take the final spot, and Dwyane Wade makes the playoffs again, but I wonder if consistency issues will doom them. Watch out for the Bulls if they get hot, but it would still be a stretch.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Indiana Pacers
It’s LeBron James against Paul George again. I’m sure there’s nothing PG wants to do other than beat one of his rivals just once, but I don’t think this is the right year for it. This is also going to be an interesting playoff series for the Pacers – are they on the way up next year, or could they be on the down side? Many people thought they’d be better this year, but there were issues with timing and consistency. And I still think Frank Vogel should have been coach. Nothing against Nate McMillan, but he didn’t really seem to get the best out of his guys this year. He also has a reluctance to play rookies, so we never got to see their only rookie Georges Niang really prove himself. Lastly, Indiana was terrible on the road this year. Having to play four of seven (potentially) in Cleveland may hurt their chances. I think the Pacers could steal a game at home, but the lack of home-court and the chemistry issues probably mean another win for LeBron and another year wondering what went wrong for the Pacers. Hopefully, they will turn that corner one day and win a title. Just once, right?

(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
I have to admit, I didn’t think Milwaukee would be that good this year. Indiana could have avoided Cleveland altogether by winning one more game or by Milwaukee losing one more, but in the end, Milwaukee won the tiebreaker on head-to-head with Indiana 3-1. Toronto is probably favored in this series, having made the conference finals the year before. The 3-6 matchup can be very good sometimes, but I think this one is a little misleading. We’ll have to see.

(4) Washington Wizards vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
Quietly, the Wizards put up 49 wins in what was a pretty weak Eastern Conference this year. Atlanta, therefore, took the #5 seed with only 43 wins. This series is probably the most balanced, and Dwight Howard seems to be the marquee player, but I think the Wizards make their case a little better this time. Also, Washington has won three of the first five playoff series, although Atlanta won their most recent one in 2015. I say coin flip, but leaning Washington.

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers 
It’s a rematch of the second round last year, which Golden State won 4-1. I like them to do the same thing here. Golden State remains the team to beat in the NBA this year. It wasn’t as good as last year, but 67-15 is still impressive. However, that record has had some bad mojo before, as the Warriors beat the Mavericks in 2007 with the same record. I don’t see Portland doing that here, but the numbers are a little eerie.

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
This has the potential of  becoming a pretty good rivalry, actually. The Grizzlies beat the Spurs as a #8 seed in 2011, and faced off against them in the 2013 conference finals. The problem is that San Antonio has won three of four previous meetings, and in a sweep in all of them. San Antonio doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.

(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder 
If there’s one potential upset pick, it’s this one. Russell Westbrook may not be in OKC much longer, but given his incredible season, including a 50-point buzzer beating effort to clinch a record 42 triple-doubles, I could see him carrying the Thunder on his back. Plus, Houston has been wildly inconsistent in the playoffs ever since 2000, with a tendency to choke in the clutch. If I’m going to pick one upset (Clippers-Jazz is pretty even), this is it.

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Utah Jazz 
Again, I’m picking the lower seed, but that wouldn’t be that much of an upset. The Jazz did win their division, albeit in a weak year for it, and while the Clippers finally seem to be getting into playoff form, there’s always something about them where they can’t shed a choker label. Plus, this is a trap series for them – I don’t think either side wanted each other. I think this one goes seven games, and I’m leaning Utah, but not by much.

My first round predictions 
Boston in 6
Cleveland in 5
Toronto in 5
Washington in 6

Golden State in 5
San Antonio in 5
Oklahoma City in 7
Utah in 7

Here we go! Playoff time!

Why we do this

In spring of 2009, I did a version of The Trojan Women by Euripides. Playing Menelaus, the only male character in the show, I got some great reviews. I had ten minutes to play my role. It was a very challenging role. Usually, when I’m on a stage or set, I’m cracking jokes, a regular chatterbox, for better or for worse. But for that one, art imitated my real life. I purposely sheltered myself from my fellow actresses; I am usually not a “method actor,” but that was the biggest exception I can remember.

Now, eight years later, I saw several friends and friends of friends and acquaintances in another version of the same show, and twice in three days. If it’s not the most emotionally taxing shows you’ll ever do, then it’s up there. I commend the cast for their excellence, especially for a show that I will say from experience can be – and is – draining.

And yet, we keep coming back. We come back for the social justice element. We come back for the friendships we’ve formed in spite of heavy content. We come back for the chance to grow and learn and see what happens from there. We come back because art does matter.  We come back because as hard as it is, it’s often one of the most fun things to do. This is why we as actors (and directors, musicians, writers, etc.) do what we do. And that’s more than likely only scratching the surface.

I had my audition for As You Like It today. It’s meant to be a comedy, so it’ll surely be a welcome change. Here’s hoping this old dog has new tricks. Here’s to the growth, the friendships, the message, the exercise, and any other reason you can think of.

They say you only need four things to keep art alive: an idea, people to do it, a place to do it, and an audience. Art is a survivor. And I’ll do everything I can to find mine again, and to keep that spirit alive.