Monday, June 28, 2010

'Ghana' Send You Packing: A Look Back at the U.S. 2010 World Cup Run

It was a good run, boys...

As I sit here watching the Brasil/Chile game (0-0, 17th minute), I can't help but feel a little dejected at the U.S. exit from the World Cup, once again at the hands of the Ghana Black Stars ("La Estrellas Negras!" as the overexcited Univision announcer kept yelling)... in their off-brand ketchup jerseys, no less ("The McDonald's uni," my boy called it).

It wasn't long after the loss that sarcastic remarks like, "Yeah well, f&^! soccer, anyway" and "How can we not beat GHANA?" began to permeate the atmosphere. This is sort of a continuation of something I would call "Slovenia Syndrome."

Slovenia Syndrome is the baseless belief that the United States should beat other national teams based on population or military history. Tony Kornheiser, though he may have been half-joking, said on PTI, "America has 300 million people; Slovenia has 2 million." To which I would respond, "So the f&^! what?"

Ghana has 23 million people. That's L.A. and two New Yorks. They've sent us packing two Cups in a row now.

Now, I was going around earlier mistakenly blasting out what I thought was an insightful and simultaneously hilarious remark of my own, about people who fall victim to Slovenia Syndrome. I said that it's no wonder America invented baseball, basketball and its OWN football... because we totally sucked at the world's true No. 1 sport.

Well... turns out baseball and basketball were both invented before soccer, or at least around the same time. So there goes that part of my argument.

But let's take a quick look at sporting history from 1930 (the year of the first World Cup) onward. Between 1930 and 1950, the U.S. qualifies for three out of four World Cups ('30, '34, '50... no Cups held during World War II, for obvious reasons). From here on out, it is, literally, four decades before the U.S. qualifies again (1990). In the intervening period, soccer makes exponential leaps in international popularity to easily become the world's most popular sport.

The FIFA World Cup is one of the few competitions outside of the Olympics that truly crowns a world champion. Imagine the hubris it takes for the NBA to say its Finals' winners are "world champions," especially when the U.S., while winning gold a decade ago, hasn't performed nearly as well in international competition as of late. And of course the NFL crowns a "world champion," since almost every attempt at creating a competing league, domestic or international, has been an abject failure (although I am still lookin' for a Rod Smart 'He Hate Me' jersey, if you got one for sale).

But I'll even forgive U.S. sports fans and the leagues for that. By and large, Americans don't care about what's happening outside their country anyway. Oh sure, after 9/11, everyone wanted to know more about the Middle East, but really? Not so much.

What I don't understand, though, is this sense of entitlement; that somehow the U.S. should beat all these countries who send star footballers to pro leagues all over the globe. I mean, fifteen of the 23 players on the Ghana Black Stars national team play for the big Euro leagues (Premiership, Serie A, Bundesliga), compared to 12 or 13 of the U.S. players. Okay, Donovan was on loan to the Bundesliga for like three months. That's great.

Look, I'm not trying to put down the U.S. team. I just think that we U.S. fans need to take a look at the big picture when it comes to our expectations of the team... something I've learned very well during my ongoing tenure as a Pitt basketball fan. When the whole damn city of Pittsburgh is crowing about how this is the year the Panthers make the Final Four... I usually have 'em going out by the Sweet 16 in my bracket.

Consider the following:
• Soccer is unlike almost any other sport, in that you need virtually no equipment to practice and play. You need a ball. Granted, amateur leagues and the pros wear pads and what-not, but you don't NEED those to practice or play. This means anyone in the whole world with a wide, flat space can ball.
• The U.S. qualifies for World Cups through CONCACAF, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. And aside from Mexico, Costa Rica and few select others, we qualify against such august competition as... Anguilla, the Bahamas, Jamaica, French Guiana, Cuba, and other nations who are... shall we say... not exactly known for footballin'.

Let me put it this way: Not counting the U.S. and Costa Rica, Mexico has qualified for more World Cups (14) than ALL THE OTHER CONCACAF TEAMS COMBINED (12). So let's not pretend we're beating the best of the best to make it in every four years.

Once again, let me stress: I am not putting down the U.S. squidder or its efforts. The group stage was fantastic to watch, and I was almost as excited during the Algeria win as I was during my first Steelers' Super Bowl win. And I doubt this diatribe, which can essentially be boiled down to "U.S. soccer isn't as good as everyone thinks" is going to convert many people to the beautiful game.

Hey, at least we're not England.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

128 Oz. of Haterade: The Rundown

While we work to bring you more interviews with up-and-coming musical talent, let's continue with the blog's mission of mo' music, mo' music. Here's a little bit of what's been blasting through the speakers lately:

The Strangerz, 2nd to None - The Long Island trio of Hus, Smoovth and Marvelous Mag put together a great, laidback album that captures some of the best elements of '90s underground hip-hop while keeping a modern, polished edge. It's almost reminiscent of neighborhood legends De La Soul, as the group gives streetwise takes on love, relationships and everyday living.

Akon, Stadium - Despite making a fantastic decision in signing Kardinal Offishall to Konvict Records, I have very little love for Akon. When he isn't busy Auto-Tuning himself into submission, he's partnering up with the techno flavor of the month, David Guetta, for some Night-at-the-Roxbury bulls&#^. There's literally one song on Stadium that I halfway enjoy, and it's mainly a guilty-pleasure thing, since it reminds of the slightly-corny R&B songs that were popular in the '90s.

Alborosie, Escape from Babylon - I'm not quite as up on modern Jamaican reggae as I would like, but I do know that there are precious few singers out there putting out classic rocksteady reggae. Alborosie, originally born in Sicily, Italy, is a very notable exception. I came across his Soul Pirate a couple years ago, and I've been a huge fan ever since, thanks to tracks like "Moonshine," "Police" and "Bad Mind." Escape is another heavy dose of roots-rock, politics (where he takes on not just American foreign policy, but also Italian President Silvio Berlusconi), and the ubiquitous ode to herbs.

The Roots, How I Got Over - My occasional difficulty with the Roots is that, in my opinion, Things Fall Apart was their best album, and I tend to compare a new Roots joint based on that. How I Got Over is very different, in tempo and tone, from some of Things' raw sounds, but it's also a laidback head-nodder. There are a few more guests than usual, but Black Thought still holds it down as one of hip-hop's premier lyricists.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Back to the 'Burgh

Oh, Tenth St. Bridge... how many times did I freeze my rocks off crossing your giant yellow ass? Yet I still miss you...

PITTSBURGH-AREA FRIENDS: I will be back in the 'Burgh for a full week beginning tomorrow (Friday, June 11), partly to look for new jobs, but mostly to go blind watching countless hours of WORLD CUP, BYAAAAATCH!

I also have a couple of gigs... well, one for sure, and another is still kind of tentative. I am definitely playing guitar on Wednesday, June 16, at Books & Beans Coffeeshop, 156 Market St., Leechburg, Pa. The other gig I'm working on is a DJ gig at the bar my boy manages in the South Side. Stay posted for details on that, and for a few random DJ sets, check out the new UStream channel.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't Mess with Your Local Luchadore...

...not even if you're probably (most likely) an audience plant... this still looks like it's gonna smart...

I meant to post this yesterday, but it slipped to the bottom of the to-do list... luckily, Deadspin had me covered.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Live in the Mix

So here is my first stab at UStream live DJing... I apologize in advance for the crappy audio AND video quality... I'm learning this on the fly...

The Beat Doctor's Podcast Show: June 7, 2010

He &$%!ing hates rappers... you $#%!ing date rappers...

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST! (link will eventually expire)

We're back on the ball today, presenting an interview with Brooklyn rapper PackFM, whose latest record, I F&^!ing Hate Rappers, hits stores on June 16. We'll discuss the inspiration behind the title, his thoughts on the music industry, and how not rocking "the Kanye look" can occasionally keep you on the wrong side of the velvet rope ("Yo, you need some tighter jeans.").

As always, you can email the show at thebeatdoctor@verizon.net.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back in Biznass!


Well, not exactly in
business... it's still a non-commercial podcast, but we'll be back this Monday with a brand-new show, including an interview with Brooklyn rapper PackFM (above), whose new record, I F*%!ing Hate Rappers, will be released in stores on June 16.

We're not going back to the daily weekday format, but the hope is to bring you a weekly podcast, featuring interviews with artists of all stripes, along with album reviews, and the occasional odd news and sports items.

As always, if you have a show idea or there's someone you'd like us to try and interview, email the show at thebeatdoctor@verizon.net!