MMQB: World Cup edition (cont.)
"This is what you prepare for mentally. You don't prepare mentally for making great saves and playing the perfect game. You prepare for trauma.''
-- Goalie Robert Green, who will have plenty of that for a long time. He allowed the softest goal in recent World Cup history -- or maybe ever -- which turned into the equalizer in the 1-1 England draw with the U.S. Saturday.
"He must wish the ground would open up and swallow him whole.''
-- BBC's World Cup Live Blog, on Green's goalkeeping gaffe.
"Hopefully the English papers take it easy on him tomorrow.''
-- United States defenseman and captain Carlos Bocanegra, thinking wishfully, about Robert Green.
Well, the News of the World and the Sunday Mirror both headlined their stories on the match with "Hand of Clod,'' a mocking reference to the famous Diego Maradona shot that propelled Argentina past England in the 1986 World Cup.
"Worst England blunder ever,'' the Sunday Mirror said.
"This ball has been doing silly things.''
--American goalkeeper Tim Howard, trying to defend his pal. And they really are pals. They've met and know each other from competition in Britain.
Not that silly, Tim.
Drove to Rustenburg Saturday with football editor Mark Mravic (a not-so-closeted socceraholic), his son Branko and fellow scribe Mark Bechtel (you can follow Bechtel and Mravic's adventures on SI's World Cup blog). It's a three-hour drive via the scenic route -- a sometimes-mountainous, sometimes-Bush-dissecting trip to a stadium in a midsized city known for its platinum -- and gold-mining in the country's North West Province. It's a Kansas City-type city, I'd guess, rising out of the countryside.
So we were an hour from the stadium, out in the bush, and I spied a tiny roadside eatery with one table and two barstools called The Garden Café. We stopped. The other three got the local sausage, cooked on a tiny round propane grill, and I got a grilled tomato and cheese sandwich. As we ate, I asked the proprietor, a friendly, dentally challenged man named Leon, if he'd been able to see the South Africa-Mexico draw the previous day. No, he said, because he'd had some work to do around his restaurant and cottages. But he heard about it.
"From the guys out there,'' he said, nodding to the bush, a endless area of tall brown grass. "Guess they had a radio. But when South Africa scored, I heard all kinds of screaming from there.''
In my first week in South Africa, I have had waiters named Offer and Quiet.
But those can't top the first name of my bartender Sunday night in Capetown.
I'm here with my wife, and the other day, we were in a cab in Cape Town and the driver asked where we were from.
"I grew up in Pittsburgh,'' my wife said.
"The Steelers!!!!'' the fellow said.
"You know the Steelers?'' she said.
"Everyone knows the Steelers!'' he said.
"My kids have asked why there are so many bees in south africa. "Do they eat a lot of honey?"
--b_bandhauer, Brandon Bandhauer, of Barre, N.Y., on the constant 90-decibel hum of horns called vuvuzelas throughout World Cup games, to my @worldcupking Twitter account during the game Saturday.
1. I think if you didn't like that game Saturday, you don't like sports.
2. I think it's fairly ridiculous that here we are, at the biggest sports event in the world, and the fans in the place -- and the media -- have to guess at the time remaining. In Johannesburg Friday, the only way to track the time of game was to use binoculars to follow the world TV feed, which was being played on the small scoreboards in either end of the stadium, with the elapsed time running in the upper left corner of the screen. In Rustenburg, it was worse -- the time was not on either scoreboard and the only way you knew how much time was elapsed was the two or three times per half the PA announcer said how much time was gone. This is one of those things that you soccer purists can tell me all you want about how "this is the way it's always been in soccer'' and "look at your watch if you want to know how much time is left.'' It's dumb. Maybe that was okay in 1950, but a clock on the scoreboard isn't going to ruin the precious tradition of soccer.
3. I think Wayne Rooney has some Michael Irvin in him. He knows when to grab when he can get away with it.
4. I think Rooney's the genuine item. You only have to see 97 minutes of soccer to see that.
5. I think the best thing I can tell you about the World Cup, compared to American sports, is that it's about three times as intense as the Super Bowl. I was sitting in this mid-sized stadium (no press box, just a row near the top of the lower level, covered, outside), about 15 minutes before the game, with no teams on the field, no immediate promise of players coming out of the tunnel to take the field, and the vuvuzelas were trumpeting at maybe 90 decibels by themselves, and the fans were screaming and chanting to add maybe 20 more decibels, and I'm thinking, "There's no one in sight, and the anticipation is so ridiculous that these people are screaming themselves silly.'' It's no knock on the NFL. I love big games in the NFL. But this -- with games in 20 or so town squares on huge screens EVERY day of the World Cup, and the nation taking the month off to watch them (not in person, maybe, but on these screens or on TV) -- is some great sport right here.
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