Monday, July 10, 2006
I love this team. Madone, do I love this team!
As an admitted novice to soccer, I thought that was one hell of a good match. I know it irks people to have a match decided by penalty kicks, and I completely understand that. I think it kinda sucks, too. However, you can't keep the guys running around out there until they all pass out or die. And since my gorgeous Italian team won, I was pretty okay with it playing out that way.
While watching this year's World Cup, I realized why soccer hasn't reached the level of popularity in the U.S. that it has in the rest of the world, and it's pretty simple. Television stations can't squish enough commercials into the matches to make it worthwhile to broadcast it. Since it proceeds at uninterrupted 45 minute intervals, it doesn't have the natural pauses that baseball and football and basketball have to allow for advertising. Also, I'm not sure most American viewers with out short attention spans that've been programmed to follow this stop/start and fast momentum switches in other sports can easily digest the long flow that's so rarely punctuated with scoring. Certainly, there's always action going on, and it's plenty exciting. But we're a nation who's bent the rules of baseball (and turned a blind eye to steroids for over a decade) to accommodate the exclamation point of home runs.
But for anyone who watched this final match of the World Cup, it had everything any sports enthusiast could ask for. A whiff of scandal, plenty of on-field action, rising tension, and even a meltdown with a bit of random violence.
The big story in the days leading up to this final wasn't Italy, but France's Zinedine Zidane, who'd announced his retirement after this match. Everyone in the press was rooting for a golden exit for Zidane; they wanted him to go out on top. Early in the match, it looked like he might get his fairy tale ending when a controversial call by the ref gave France a penalty kick that Zidane converted into a goal against Italy's spectacular goal keeper, Gianluigi Buffon. Before that, Buffon and Italy had allowed only one goal to be scored against them throughout the World Cup, and that was an own-goal when they were playing the U.S.
Buffon was incredible, but so was the entire Italian defense. In the final, France seemed to be on the attack constantly, but they were never able to penetrate. Zidane had another close call in the first overtime session when he shot a header toward the goal, but Buffon denied him, leaping and pushing the ball over the bar. Zidane was clearly pissed. Clearly.
Only seven minutes later, he and Italy's Marco Materazzi exchanged words. I don't know what words Materazzi -- who himself has quite the reputation for being a thug -- flung at Zidane, but Zidane ran in front of Materazzi, turned, and head butted the Italian in the chest. That's when the shit started to rain for the broadcast-booth announcing team. They kept insisting that the ref hadn't seen the maneuver and so it was impossible for Zidane to be red-carded, because they don't allow instant replay. But the move was shown on the screens in the stadium, and Buffon started making a case with the sideline ref. Sure enough, Zidane was red-carded and France was forced to finish the match a man down.
But the best part was listening to the announcers try to wrap their minds and their tongues around the situation. Everyone was so clearly biased for France and Zidane that this shocking twist of events completely flipped the script and they just didn't know what to say. I'm sure they had all these eloquent praises written up to honor Zidane as he kissed the trophy and reveled in his final glory on the field.
But when that didn't happen, it was just such a shame when the Italians pulled off the victory and then Zidane couldn't even collect his silver medal on the field. Of course, since I'd fallen completely in love with the Italian team early on, and since I'm an uncouth, nasty bitch, I said, "Fuck the Frog. Give Italy its due."
And since they didn't, I will.
Italy's captain, Fabio Cannavaro, lived his own fairy tale. Back in the 1990 World Cup, he was a ball boy for the Italian team, which was defeated on its home turf by Argentina in the semi-finals. Cannavaro, a Neopolitan who at age 32 was playing in his 100th match for the national team, was a huge part of Italy's stellar defense throughout the tournament. When another of Italy's defenders, Alessandro Nesta, was injured, Cannavaro was forced to play every minute of every game and to switch sides, depending on which side one of the three replacements for Nesta preferred. Without a doubt, he was a crucial part of Italy's mind-boggling defense.
As far as the offense, several players came up big throughout the tournament, most notably Fabio Grosso, whose name means "large." Grosso scored with the winning penalty kick to clinch it for Italy yesterday, but he also scored the winning goal against Australia and in the final seconds against Germany. So scorchingly-attractive-it-should-be-a-flagrant-foul Luca Toni had a good Cup, scoring twice in the match against Ukraine.
And then there's head-buttee, Marco Materazzi. Materazzi was all over in this game. It was his foul that set up the penalty that allowed France to score first. But he was also the guy who headed in Andrea Pirlo's kick to even the score. And Materazzi was himself red-carded earlier in the tournament. From what I hear about Materazzi, he's a volatile player, maybe a little Bill Laimbeerish even. I don't know how endorsements work in Europe, but I guess maybe Materazzi isn't the most marketable of players. But who gives a shit? There's no time for commercials in soccer anyhow.
In other Sunday news, Entourage was pretty good last night. Not only did they get a really nice dig in on Michael Bay, but Ari was hilarious in his scheming to get rid of his 14 year old daughter's boyfriend. Pretty interesting that this show is so different from how it started out. There used to be a revolving door of shrewish, gorgeous women. (The sublime and hilarious Debi Mazar as shark PR rep Shauna excepted from that list.) But this year, the only females in focus are Ari's wife and daughter, with nary a cooze to be seen, yet.
In interesting and happy developments, it took three years, but after being manipulated and shit on by a Warner exec, Vince has finally found his balls. After the suit squashes Vince's dream project of "Medellin", Vince tells him that they need to cough up $20 million dollars or he's walking from Aquaman 2. I like it.
I like it because they've worked very hard over the years to walk a line with Vince and the other boys to not make them seem too "sucked in" by the money. They enjoy it, that's for sure. But while Vince is always the one buying them expensive toys (this week it Aston Martins for everyone) it's also always Vince who's ready to see through the trappings and give up the money because he knows it's superficial and not real. It's kind of bullshit, to walk around wearing Prada and talk about how it doesn't really matter. And Vince has never really been tested, because although he takes the gambles and risks, they always pay off for him. That's the fun of the show. But now it's nice to see Vince sticking it up the execs ass and demanding the cash because it's been well enough established that he'll work for free if he believes in a project. But he's not going to let someone fuck him over, either.
In even better news, Turtle's involvement with Saigon has re-surfaced! YAY Turtle! I love this because I'm already feeling bad for Johnny Drama, who's really going to feel marginalized and insecure if even Turtle gets a rocking career in place. And Drama and Turtle racing their Aston Martins to a lunch meeting with Ari and Drama pushing Turtle to the ground (red card!) to get shotgun at the meeting on him was classic interaction.