Four Lasting Memories of Team USA in the 2010 World Cup

Yes – I know the 2010 World Cup is not over, but with the USA knocked out, it’s time for me, at least, to wrap things up.

As disappointed as I was with the United States loss to Ghana in the round of 16, the World Cup has provided US Soccer and its fans with great memories and further expectations. 9 of the 23 rostered players will still be under 30 in Brazil in 2014, all except back-up goal tender Marcus Hahnemann will be 35 or younger. Tim Howard, the US starting goaltender and one of the best in the world, is 31 now, just entering the prime years for a goaltender.

The USA have now qualified for six straight World Cups, and have shown success in recent tournaments in CONCACAF, the governing soccer body of North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The USA reached the finals of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the men’s championship, the finals of the 20U CONCACAF championship, and went 3-0 in the 17U preliminaries before swine flu canceled the knock-out round.

Grabbed from You Tube, I’ve posted four lasting memories for me of the USA in the 2010 World Cup. Not seen — any negatives. Sorry, but I don’t care to see images of the USA’s denied goal against Slovenia for the win or of the USA-Ghana game. Enjoy.

1.The “howler” by UK goaltender Robert Green, who never saw the pitch again after this game. Of all the videos posted, I liked this one the best.

2. The re-enactment of the USA-England game using legos. There’s one of USA-Ghana as well, but I’m not interested.

3. Andres Cantor’s radio call of Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria to put the USA into the knock out round. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

For perfectly synced video with this audio call, visit Deadspin.

4. This fantastic video of the reaction across the USA when Donovan scored. Yes, it’s over 5 minutes, but I think it’s worth it.

See you in 2014 in Brazil!

In Praise of Grammar Girl

For this year’s World Cup, ESPN has hired an all-British play-by-play crew for television.  In fact, as I think about their announcers overall, most are non-Americans, which makes sense to me if you want that so-called “expert commentary” and want announcers that know about the players, most of which play in Europe.

As I watch the matches and listen to the commentary by the British play-by-play announcers, I am repeatedly struck by what seems like wrong noun-verb agreement when the talk about the teams.  It is all in the plural.  Thus, they use phrases like:

  • England drive towards the goal.
  • Ghana look tired as the 1st half comes to a close.
  • Italy dive any time an opposing player comes near them. (So true!).

Sorry, but these sentences sound a bit off to me.  I have a desire to say “England drives” and “Ghana looks” and “Italy dives” (All the time!!).

It’s as if the Brits are assuming a collective name exists after the country, but it isn’t said.  If a Brit were announcing ice hockey, for example, we might hear “The Washington Capitals are the best offensive team in the league” as often as we’d hear “Washington are the best offensive team in the league.”  The latter still sounds wrong to me.

To find out the right answer, I visited one of my favorite sites:  Grammar Girl.  Grammar Girl is run by Mignon Fogarty, who has also written an entire book on grammar called The Grammar Devotional.  I became enamored with Grammar Girl through her weekly podcast, on which she resolves age-old mysteries such as:

I’m still not sure when to use “lay” and when to use “lie,” but I do remember Grammar Girl pointing out that Bob Dylan’s song “Lay Lady Lay” should be “Lie Lady Lie” and Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally” should be “Lie Down Sally.”

Do you think Dylan and Clapton care?  No, probably not.

In case you are wondering — a) “alternatives” are different choice than your current choice, while “options” is used to describe all choices, including your current choice and b) yes, it is OK to split an infinitive in some contexts  (Shocking! I know.)

A good place to start with Grammar Girl is her Top 10 Grammar Myths.  I won’t give any away, but suffice it to say that a preposition is a word you can end a sentence with.

So what does Grammar Girl say about team names?  In her podcast and article from September 2, 2008, she writes:

Adding to the complexity of this issue is that Americans and Britons handle it differently.

Americans tend to treat collective nouns as single units, so it’s more common to use the singular verb unless you’re definitely talking about individuals. So in America you would be more likely to hear “The faculty is meeting today” than “The faculty are meeting today.”

In British usage, however, it’s the opposite; it’s more common to use the plural verb. In fact, some sentences that are perfectly correct in Britain would be considered incorrect in America. Take “Cambridge are winning the boat race.” Although I spent my elementary-school years in London, I have been fully Americanized, so this sentence doesn’t sound right to me. As an American, I would say, “Cambridge is winning.”

In short — the British announcers say it correctly for them.

And, if I want to say “Italy dives any time an opposing player comes near them” (It’s so annoying!), then I’m free to do so and will still be grammatically correct.

The Vuvuzela Controversy

Three days ago, not many people in the world could have identified a vuvuzela. I can tell you that I’m not one of them. Say the word, and it suggests the thing that hangs in the back of your throat (a uvula). Some would think it’s a country in South America that is a member of OPEC (Venezuela). I’m sure to many comedians, it suggests something a bit more NC-17, perhaps used in the phrase “she invited me over to see her vuvuzela, and when I got there I was brutally disappointed.”

South African Fan Blowing His Vuvuzela

By now, many sports fans know that the vuvuzela is a plastic horn available at all World Cup 2010 matches in South Africa. Its use accounts for that low-pitched hum we hear on television broadcasts of the World Cup matches. I know that several times the vuvuzela sound has drowned out the commentators, making it difficult to hear them (and, as a side note to ESPN, simply impossible to understand Derek Rae’s Scottish accent).

According to Wikipedia, a vuvuzela is about 1 meter long and plays a B note. It also pushes out sound at 131 decibels right near the opening, a level that, according to a few experts, can cause hearing loss.

The vuvuzela falls into the same bucket as several other well-known implements at sporting events that drive fans nuts: air horns, cowbells, drums, and thundersticks. I really loathe cowbells and the constant ringing at local high school hockey games here in suburban St. Louis. Thundersticks are usually evident at NBA games, as opposing fans try to distract free throw shooters in an exceptionally professional way. Not!

None of these, however, have attracted the same wave of publicity and discussion as the vuvuzela. From what I’ve read, the controversy started in the 2008 Confederations Cup.  Never mind that vuvuzela had been used in Latin America and South Africa for years. To get Mike & Mike to talk about the vuvuzela on their ESPN morning show means that it must have made an impact.

Interestingly, the reaction of FIFA (the governing body for international football) was to ban them, not because of the noise, but because European hooligans might use them as weapons. Despite that, FIFA let them stay in the interests of presenting soccer in South Africa as it should be.

Flash forward to the 2010 World Cup. Just three days in, the focus is almost as much on the vuvuzela as it is on the soccer itself. While South Africa’s goalkeeper says the vuvuzelas are not loud enough, we read that European-led FIFA is talking about banning them. Articles are appearing about the vuvuzela in such esteemed information sources as the Christian Science Monitor (against), the Wall Street Journal (for), the Toronto Sun (for), and the Huffington Post (for).

Instead of blaming the controversial soccer ball, as England’s coach did after his goalie gifted the USA a tie, France’s captain Patrice Evra blamed the defenseless vuvuzela. We can’t sleep at night because of the vuvuzelas, he said after France played to an unexpected scoreless tie versus Uruguay.

Bottom line — deal with it. Yes, I hate cowbells. But, if one of the hockey player’s moms thinks it makes a difference, then bring it on. Vuvuzelas are part of football in South Africa. Fans are having fun with them.

I say to ESPN and their announcers – turn up the gain so we can hear you.

I say to Patrice Evra and other players – put your head under your pillow or use one of the sleep machines that pushes out sounds of oceans, birds or thunderstorms.

And lastly, I say to all you entrepreneurs – run, do not walk, to South Africa with cases, pallets or container loads of earplugs.

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