June 2010 Archives

The World Cup: You Gotta Love It, Even Though it's Soccer.

American academics are notorious, sometimes slavish, Europhiles,  who sometimes act as if anything that originates across the pond is automatically  way superior to anything we can come up with over here.  Now don't get the Ol' Bloviator wrong.  He's got a lot of friends over there, not the least of them being Tony Badger, who is not only the Master of Clare College, Cambridge, but the world's biggest --and possibly most knowledgeable--Braves fan.  Tony's a big soccer fan, too, of course, but though I've tried to join him in that camp more than once, I just can't get there.   I swore that I was going to immerse myself in this year's World Cup doings out of self-defense mostly, since I and the missus are about to shove off on our annual trek to the French West Indies.   I dare not be more specific here, lest one of those pesky paparazzi pop out from behind a palm tree and snap a shot or two of me in my leopard-skin Speedo.  I've heard that such a pic would fetch a premium among those desperately seeking a sure-fire cure for nymphomania. (Note: Probable side effects include irreversible frigidity.)  At any rate, the last time we visited this little corner of paradise during a World Cup season, there were TV's in places where there normally weren't, and none of them exactly went begging for viewers.  As French subjects, the islanders were moderately, but certainly not overwhelmingly, disposed to support the Mama country's lads, but I doubt if there was much mourning anywhere in the Francophone world at the early departure of this year's team, which not only managed to reinforce every negative French stereotype out there, but may have engendered a few new ones.   Admittedly, they had to contend with a wacko coach who reportedly decided who was playing when and where based on a player's astrological sign. What gives?  Channeling Nancy Reagan maybe?   Still, this bunch of cheaters , who used an undetected  illegal hand pass to beat Ireland and get into the competition in the first place, (I bet Irish players were really pissed after they sobered up and heard what happened)  never passed on a chance to appear arrogant ,selfish, petty and thoroughly unsportsmanlike.  When Coach Wacko dismissed a player who had cussed him out at halftime of their first match, a sleep-walking loss to Mexico,  this bunch of incorrigibiles fell back on a national tradition second only to waving the white flag , by going on strike and refusing to practice.   When, to the surprise of no one and doubtless to the dismay of only a few, the Frenchies lost to South Africa, their coach refused to shake hands with his opposing counterpart.  Now I read that the anti-immigrant French ultra-nationalists are blaming their team's abysmal conduct and performance on the lack of "patriotism" among squad members who emigrated from Africa.   I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that, Francois.  Regardless of the accents or pigmentation of some team members, this crew's problems stemmed from acting too much in accord with what is expected of your people, rather than too little.  If you're looking for a world-class athlete whose behavior is out of line with your perceived national character, check out Nicolas Mahut, who like American John Isner, did himself, his nation and the sport of tennis proud in their historic marathon fifth set at Wimbledon on Wednesday and Thursday, and ..... (At this writing, Friday doesn't seem out of the question.)


That the French soccer team should conduct itself in a manner so reminiscent of a surly, indifferent waiter at an overpriced Paris restaurant is unfortunate. Stereotypes can be dangerous and hurtful, though they frequently derive from some kernel of truth or experience. When we spent a month in Italy during World Cup play in 2002, the Italians supported their team with all the exuberant enthusiasm that we had encountered so frequently in our day-to-day dealings with them. (Although, I confess that as the prospect of an Italian-U.S.A. face-off loomed, I began to wonder if our reception might cool off a little). Likewise, as the excitable Italians and Spanish struggle, the stolid Germans simply crunch relentlessly, almost mechanically ahead.  It hasn't looked good for the English so far, but just as they did in World Rumble # 2, they survived the first round.  Their fan base isn't particularly pleased with what they have seen so far, but I'll bet Mr. Churchill would see it a bit differently.  Then there were the Americans who got lucky against the Brits and screwed against the Slovenians and were on track to become the most notorious bunch of sister-kissers in soccer history, only to be saved by last-minute heroics in an ending Hollywood couldn't have conjured up.

 I just spent thirty minutes trying to figure out how the U.S. emerges a group winner when it has the same record as England, and I can't help noting that both these outfits are moving into the next round after managing but a total of 5 points each over three games.  I know these guys are marvelous and superbly conditioned athletes, but I just don't think I could ever get all that excited about yucking it up with with my mates about  all the times that our side almost scored.              

One thing's for sure, regardless of who winds up in the finals, they're bound to be deaf as posts. Those damn "vulvalators" or whatever the hell they are have already cost me two or three db in my hearing, and that's with the TV on mute most of the time.   Trying to tune them out is like trying to savor Mozart on your ipod while driving a Formula One car at about 18k rpm. By the same token, the folks who keep tooting' nonstop on these things are going to have some of the floppiest, Botoxified-looking lips this side of Goldie Hawn.   Frankly, the whole atmosphere seems a bit too uncivilized for my tastes.  Thank goodness in scarcely two months' time I'll be back in my familiar, more sophisticated milieu, rubbing shoulders with folks who paint their faces red and black and bark at their opponents don Razorback-shaped hard hats and scream "S-O-O-O-O-E-E!" at the top of their lungs.



            I don't know about you, but I don't think I can handle another shot of a pitiful, petrol-encapsulated pelican. This is not because the Ol' Bloviator has become desensitized  to the still-unfolding tragedy of the BP disaster, but rather that he just gets  sick at heart and stomach to see an uncomprehending creature suffer such a fate.  I see no relief from these images, however, until somebody's kid shows up coated in Valvoline from head to toe:, resulting in the following oceanside exchange:

            "Marvin! What's that all over little Curtis? Has he been helping you change your oil again? Why would you want to do that at the beach?"

            "Aw, calm down, Becky Sue. I just lost track of him for a little bit while I was fumbling around in the cooler for a beer. A little oil ain't never hurt nobody. Besides, we're down a quart or two in the Taurus, and we should be able to scrape enough off him to at least get us back to Notasulga, so Buster can take a look at it."

            Resist it if you must, but such a conversation is by no means unthinkable, especially with the old slickeroo  bearing down on the "Redneck Riviera," stretching along the Alabama-Florida Gulf Coast, from Gulf Shores to Panama City.  They've been scooping up tar balls and such for a few days at some points there already, although bon vivants around the globe will be immensely relieved to learn that the conditions remains el primo at the historic Flora-Bama Lounge and Package Store, which sits on the Alabama-Florida line at Perdido Key.  The Flora-Bama is best known, of course, for hosting the annual Interstate Mullet Toss, the Redneck Riviera's signature, self-defining event, wherein typically blind-drunk contestants, who may or may not be sporting mullet coiffure, vie to see who can heave a mullet of the piscine variety farthest across the state line.  Well, truth is, there may have been a few tar balls here and there near the F-B, but the good news is that so far the seaweed is glopping all of them up, and not to worry, if there gets to be more oil than seaweed, the establishment's management has procured a nice stash of hay, which, given its constituency, was probably not hard to come by.   

The OB obviously doesn't mean to make light of the oil spill, which is not only a deadly serious matter in the literal sense, but a phenomenon that actually reveals the complicated connections and contradictory attitudes that define contemporary life in these United States. There's hardly need here to get into what this whole thing says about our need to cut way back on our dependence on oil. Although the currently estimated flow of forty  thousand barrels of oil  into the Gulf of Mexico each day is massive enough to produce incalculable environmental damage at least as far away as the coast of North Carolina, it represents less than 2/10 of  1 percent of the twenty-one million barrels we polish off every day. We may "tut-tut" and "tch-tch" all we please about the environmental indifference of development-mad countries like China, but what has happened here is that a company focused way too much of its energy and resources on extracting as much of a valuable resource as quickly and profitably as possible, with far too little attention either to the possible consequences of a flub-up in the extraction process or to any means of avoiding said flub up. This is purely and simply a classic human behavior pattern. Left to our own devices, we are all but certain to concentrate on doing that which will reward us most handsomely in the here and now and hope like hell that our actions don't cause problems later on.  After hearing ad nauseum since the Reagan era about how wicked government is and how great it would be to rid ourselves of its meddlesome regulations, we saw the oil-drunk Bushies simply entrust oversight of the oil industry to representatives of the oil industry. So much for self-regulation. If you're gonna leave the foxes in charge of the hen house, don't get your heart set on chicken 'n dumplings for dinner. I note also in passing that the same folks who've been yelling loudest about keeping government weak and uninvolved are now demanding in equally full cry that Washington step in and fix this thing immediately, before the pristine beach in front of their exclusive vacation homes starts to look like drain floor at a Jiffy-Lube.

Anyone who thinks that the lesson of the BP disaster will be learned and taken to heart voluntarily need simply note the speedy comeback of derivatives in the investment sector. No one can say for sure that an authentic government regulatory presence of some sort would have prevented this mess, but every oil-encased pelican they force us to gaze upon is a testament to what happened without one.

I just pray that ten months from now we aren't subjected to a still sorrier spectacle when frustrated, beer-soaked Flora-Bama patrons discover they can't even get a grip on their oil-soaked mullets, much less throw 'em into the next state.  Let's face it, fish ain't really engineered for flingin' anyhow, and a thick coat of Castrol doesn't promise to make it any easier.

Boomers Ride the Short Bus to Splitsville

It had taken him nearly a decade, but the Ol' Bloviator had finally just about gotten the memory of that molten moment at the 2000 Democratic convention, when Al and Tipper Gore engaged in a protracted lip lock, and (watch out folks with queasy stomachs!) I swear it looked to me like ol'Al even had a little of that tongue thing going on. If such a kiss were occurring today, I suppose Tipper could respond with that great country song, "Get your tongue out of my mouth, I'm kissing you goodbye!" News of the Gores' split has shocked a lot of people, since the two were high school sweethearts who'd been together for forty-plus years and even co-authored Joined at the Heart, a book about the American family.

            Although I truly hate it for both of them, I'm not all that shocked. According to experts, the sixty-something demographic is the only one where the divorce rate is rising. Explanations for this are purely conjectural, but all rolled into a little ball, they come down to Boomers don't do boredom well. When you've exhausted most of the "new" options available to you (kids, houses, cars, diets, clubs, coffeemakers, flat panel TV's, etc.), the spousal unit is suddenly in play. For all his good intentions, with the possible exception of Larry King, Al Gore has got to be one of the most boring bastards on the planet that he seems to be so intent on saving, preferably, it seems, all by himself. Friends described the Gores as a "tight family unit." If the titular head of that family unit is any indication, truer words were never spoken. Let's just say if BP could persuade Mr. Environmentalist himself to use his sphincter to pinch their pipe, our oil leak worries would be over. Frankly, although she doesn't exactly come across as good-time Gertie herself, I don't see how ol' Tipper has held on as long as she has. As I once wrote right here on this site, if I were forced to sit by Ozone Al on a transoceanic flight, my mind would quickly be pondering the odds of becoming the first person ever to jump from an airplane at 30,000 feet and survive.

            Boredom isn't the only possible cause for later-in-life treks to Splitsville, of course. Analysts say that by age sixty women especially feel as though they have sacrificed or compromised their happiness or fulfillment in order to play the supportive wifey and supermom for forty years or more and it's time, by God, that they had their shot at filling in their own "Bucket Lists" while they're still healthy and fit enough to git'r done. All I can say is that while Ms. OB has every reason in the world to feel this way, I pray to God she'll at least let me hang around while she's scratching every fulfillment itch she's got.  This week she and I will be celebrating forty-one years of wedded bliss (OK, maybe there was a minute or two here and there when bliss was not exactly the operative word, but I honestly don't remember very many, and I'm hoping like hell she doesn't either.)

As most of you know, despite his gruff, macho demeanor, the OB is just an ol' softy at heart, and that heart came near to melting when he heard the report that hours before his death on Friday, legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden asked that he be shaved because he was about to be reunited with "Nellie" Wooden, the only girl he ever dated, to whom he was married in 1932 and to whom he remained just as married after her death in 1985, reportedly writing her a letter every month for the past twenty-five years.

            John Wooden was not just a giant in his profession, but a giant of a human being. I can't prove it, of course, but I'd be willing to bet that he found far more fulfillment in his unfaltering devotion to the departed Nellie than most of today's spouse-dumping Boomers will ever know. As to my own appearance upon departure, when the missus and I meet in the great hereafter, I'm sure she'll be looking for someone unkempt and disheveled. Maybe I should make that if we meet. In fact, given the current Vegas odds on my eternal prospects, regardless of my other attire, I'd be a fool not to hedge my bets with a set of asbestos underdrawers.

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