Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A brief respite from World Cup coverage

It turns out those ESPN World Cup commercials aren't exactly true: the whole world does not stop for an entire month while the World Cup goes on.

No, unfortunately, I live and reside in the one country that continues its schedule of real news -- though, with Iran's fruitless performance, expect news there to pick up soon -- and commentary covering the self-aggrandizing tendencies of Fox News' Bill O' Reilly and not Phil Scolari.

So without further delay, here's what you could also be checking out:

- Lately I've been listening to more and more talk radio as I become disillusioned with the indie rock scene. Besides the usual sports stuff -- Kornheiser, Sports Junkies, Jim Rome when I'm on the road -- I've started listening to Bill O' Reilly. And you know what? When his guest is Ann Coulter, the guy sounds pretty damn reasonable. But he's not perfect, and Michael Easley (former Slate editor) published an interesting, quasi-review of his book The O' Reilly Factor. Where O' Reilly used to get me pretty pissed off or at least amuse me with his ability to frustrate and deceive, he is nothing compared to fascist Jay Severin.

Some regular readers and friends will note that I often use the term "fascist" in jest, or at least in exaggeration. Make no mistake here: Severin would take delight in such a label. In fact, his own logic -- (direct quote here) "all Democrats are socialists and all socialists are communists" -- invites it. If that's the case, then conservatives are on the total other side of the spectrum which, of course, is fascism. He's a brash guy with a few things to say -- which he repeats, ad nauseam, every show. And he's got a face for radio. I suggest you take a look at some of his beliefs, and see what you think for yourself. My personal favorite is "Illegal immigrants are criminals. They are sewage." You can also check out his own blog here.

- This isn't exactly new news, but I recently found out that a family friend was actually responsible for the latest in-depth reports coming out of Guantanamo Bay. Charlotte Observer reporter Mike Gordon had been invited to the military prison to do a profile of Mike Bumgarner, prison commander. Anyway, he was accidentally given access to a secure meeting of officers and produced a pretty fascinating profile of the camp. Of course, the fallout of publishing the story got him sent home. Read more on that part of the story here.

- An unrelated note: a truly excellent and wonderfully evocative concert review of Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions Band tour on PopMatters.

- Another random note: Slate ran a piece today on the "woes of low-rise pants". Fashion expert Judy Childers comments: I agree the trend is way out of control. Low rise pants have mass produced tunics though (so theyre long enough to cover your body and not show too much), so I am thankful for that.

Back to the Cup
- Mexico looks distinctly suspect -- and screws over my fantasy team -- on defense in a 2-1 loss to a Portugal team missing five regulars. Unfortunately, the plucky Angolans can't capitalize on Mexico's loss and only tie 1-1 with Iran when they needed a two goal victory to advance.
- The afternoon's game between the Netherlands and Argentina -- kicking off as we speak -- should be interesting. Mexico definitely looked like the weaker of the two teams, and I imagine both will want to avoid Portugal in the next round. What kind of lineups will we see? Looks like Robben, van Bommel, and van Bronckhorst (amongst others) will not start for the Dutch. On the other side, youngsters Messi and Tevez will start for Argentina. Advantage: South Americans.
- Michael Owen is, as expected, out for the entire tournament. Looks like some ligament damage.
- Oh, I almost forgot. Remember Jay Severin from earlier in this post? Last night on his show he said ESPN's boosted ratings for this World Cup were due to "the invasion of our country by Mexicans" (or something pretty close to that). I definitely think the growing Latino population helped the numbers quite a bit. But the ultra-conservative argument/paranoia that they're forcing everyone to speak Spanish reminds me that most of them actually do speak Spanish and might actually watch the games on Spanish-speaking channels instead. And as for the supposed "cultural" revolution occurring because of the large immigrant population and as evidenced by soccer's new popularity, I would suggest that Severin merely look at the demographics of AYSO and elite club soccer teams across the country. I think he'll find those numbers have dramatically risen in the past twenty years, and that immigrant demographics don't have that much to do with it.
- Check back after the games and I'll update the Round of 16 preview.


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