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Articles on this Page
- 05/29/14--10:31: _BAMA NEEDS AN OPPON...
- 05/29/14--13:29: _Notes on Kanye West...
- 05/30/14--10:53: _How long could you ...
- 06/02/14--05:15: _Mario Kart time tri...
- 06/02/14--08:07: _BOW BEFORE YOUR NEW...
- 06/02/14--09:28: _OLE MISS RECLAIMS M...
- 06/02/14--12:37: _Rio World Cup prep,...
- 06/03/14--09:07: _Need a World Cup te...
- 06/05/14--07:19: _THE MORNING CONSTIT...
- 06/09/14--06:50: _THE MORNING CONSTIT...
- 06/09/14--07:32: _Watch John Oliver a...
- 06/09/14--09:17: _NICK SABAN LOOKS AW...
- 06/10/14--05:30: _For the person with...
- 06/10/14--07:17: _Barkley Marathon do...
- 06/10/14--09:20: _MATLOCK VS. THE NCAA
- 06/12/14--12:01: _World Cup watchabil...
- 06/13/14--06:59: _World Cup Watchabil...
- 06/14/14--07:27: _World Cup viewing g...
- 06/15/14--08:00: _World Cup viewing g...
- 06/16/14--07:45: _World Cup viewing g...
- 05/29/14--10:31: BAMA NEEDS AN OPPONENT AND THERE IS ONLY ONE ANSWER
- 05/29/14--13:29: Notes on Kanye West's wedding/audition to become an NFL owner
- 05/30/14--10:53: How long could you make it as an NFL coach?
- You have no special knowledge. You are basically you, with no more innate understanding of football, life, and the management of a football team than you already may or may not possess.
- You are expected at work immediately.
- No one else is in on the joke. Everyone believes you are the new coach and totally capable of what you are supposed to be doing.
- 06/02/14--05:15: Mario Kart time trials: a real thing
- 06/02/14--08:07: BOW BEFORE YOUR NEW HYPE VIDEO GOD
- 06/02/14--09:28: OLE MISS RECLAIMS MULTIPLE CHAMPIONSHIPS
- 06/02/14--12:37: Rio World Cup prep, chapter four: Arnold goes to Rio
- 06/03/14--09:07: Need a World Cup team to root for? This chart is for you
- 06/05/14--07:19: THE MORNING CONSTITUTIONAL IS PLAYING MINECRAFT
- 06/09/14--06:50: THE MORNING CONSTITUTIONAL TAKES YOUR ASS TO COURT
- 06/09/14--09:17: NICK SABAN LOOKS AWESOME IN A BOAT
- 06/10/14--05:30: For the person with zero going on in their life
- 06/10/14--07:17: Barkley Marathon documentary is predictably insane
- 06/10/14--09:20: MATLOCK VS. THE NCAA
- 06/12/14--12:01: World Cup watchability: Croatia vs. Brazil
- 06/13/14--06:59: World Cup Watchability: Kung-fu kick reunions and kangaroos
- 06/14/14--07:27: World Cup viewing guide: Avoid Greece and you're golden
- 06/15/14--08:00: World Cup viewing guide: Do you like blowouts? If so, good news!
- 06/16/14--07:45: World Cup viewing guide: USA! USA! USA! USA! (and Germany-Portugal)
WHAT HAS TWO EYES, FEATHERS, AND IS UNDEFEATED AGAINST THE CRIMSON TIDE?
You want to fill that hole in your schedule up, well, Alabama, we got some suggestions. A few of them are obvious: the teams Alabama has played, but never beaten. You're saying that's an error in the record books, and we're askin' why you trustin' what a book got to say about the world anyway. There's only three books you need in life, anyway: the Bible, The Last Coach, and Divergent by Veronica Roth. (We know what you're sayin', but the pages! They damn near turn themselves!)
Those schools are:
Carlisle Indian School
Georgia Navy Pre-Flight
New Orleans AC
This is not a typo: the University of Alabama has never beaten Rice, and is 0-3 against the Owls including the infamous tackle off the bench by Tommy Lewis.
Lewis would explain the tackle afterwards by saying that he was "too full of Alabama," a condition now recognized by the CDC as a very serious form of heavy metal poisoning.
The point is that Alabama only has two options, really: get revenge on the Owls by scheduling them and actually beating them for once, or play yourselves in the world's first Alabama/Alabama matchup. And in response, Rice must decline the invitation no matter the sum of money, and mount a sign on the upper deck of their stadium reading "UNDEFEATED AGAINST THE CRIMSON TIDE, FOREVER." That'd be a juvenile and profit-hating thing to do to yourselves, Rice, but it'd be the only thing to do.
P.S. DON'T SCHEDULE GEORGIA SOUTHERN. THEY'RE INCREDIBLE.
1. I was in line for groceries on the late night dad beat last week and these very dull visitors from somewhere not here were speaking in flat, monotonous accents about their church group. I want to make that part up, but I can't. They were talking about their church group, and buying batteries for their digital cameras for whatever event they were going to in town, and then they saw the cover of People featuring Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
Woman one: "Oh, I don't like him. I don't like him at all."
Woman two: "Me neither. She could do so much better."
And at that point, at 11:15 p.m. with a six pack of kids' whole fat yogurt and a brick of vacuum-sealed coffee in hand, I nearly turned around to the Stirrup Pants Hitlerettes and said "KANYE WEST IS A DAMN GENIUS AND YOU ARE SHIT." (I did not because the police are strong and have hard sticks to beat you with, but I really, really wanted to, and that's what counts here.)
I legitimately believe that, though, and reading about his wedding only confirms this. I feel confident in saying that Kanye's wedding is his third best album at worst, and one of his most important works, and also his best audition for becoming the NFL's greatest owner ever.
2. Kanye put a 49 foot tall gold toilet-god-temple on top of a Medici fortress and made people go to the bathroom in the dark in it, thus creating the most haunting metaphor of our time for wealth. At first it gleams in the distance, then invites you into a world of darkness, despair, and the uncomfortable silence of Italian bathroom attendants trying to hand you wet wipes in the dark.
3. Kanye ordered 30 black marble nude statues made for the wedding. The reasonable about of time given for fulfillment of this work order: four days. Of the thirty blocks cut, a grand total of six made it to the wedding intact and with their heads attached, a batting average of .200 that puts them right at the express statue maker's Mendoza Line. It's like my father the demand sculptor always said: "It's a lot like love, son: you can get it quick, or you can get it cheap, but you can't have both, and either way your head might fall off for no reason at any time."
4. Kanye scrapped the lights at the last second because no one needed to look at anyone but him.
5. This happened.
He took a saw and started sawing it in half himself. Two men held the bar stable as he sawed, and sawed, into the bar, defacing the entire front, screaming at everyone around him. He said it looked like a bar from Texas. Then he ordered two pieces of raw wood to be nailed onto the front of the bar. Once the wood was in place, "Now," he said, "it’s art."
You will never do anything this self-assured in your life. Also, I do not believe Kanye West is on cocaine, or at least any more so than any other person with the mutation of having naturally occurring, incredibly powerful cocaine glands located in their brain stem.
6. If the dinner table had the names of the guests engraved -- and sometimes misspelled -- on it, then there is a possibility there is a chunk of Italian marble that just reads "Cyhi the Pronce" on it floating around Florence thrift shops. Find it, and I will give you five dollars from my bank account in exchange for it, and thank you for my new special power totem stone.
7. You might think him sending Andrea Bocelli packing after singing "Con Te Partirò" is cold, but it's a roster move that sends a powerful message that no one talent is bigger than the wedding team. Authoritative stuff from a guy clearly in charge of his own franchise.
8. I am seeing him sawing the draft board in half and stapling it back together with platinum staples while firing and rehiring his GM five times in a morning. I am seeing Roger Goodell striding to the mike and announcing without a hint of irony "with the seventh pick in the 2018 draft, the Chicago Bears select a $4500 floor lamp made of stuff animals by Mariano Fortuny." I see the NFL's most minimalist fan experience coupled with the vision of the owner openly watching hardcore pornography with a bored scowl on his face in a 35 point blowout to the Packers. After reading what he did with his wedding, I am more convinced than ever that Kanye West needs to buy an NFL team now. I --nay, WE-- need him as an owner more than I can express with these feeble, clumsy words.
9. In conclusion:
Kanye then gave a 45-minute toast to himself.
You wake up in the body of a man trying to survive the rigors of an NFL season. How long do you make it?
Let's play a little thought experiment theater here, NFL/Kafka style. As you awake one morning from uneasy dreams, you find yourself transformed into an NFL coach, a kind of monstrous beast designed to spend 18 hours of every waking day devoted to football.
The rules are as follows:
For example, this is what I would do:
In lieu of actual, knowledgable coaching, I would nap in the film room, because it is dark and comfortable in there. I would orchestrate vast "Mario Kart" tournaments and grind all progress to a halt, holding only the most perfunctory of practices centered almost completely around the deep passing game. At 6 p.m., I would announce loudly that I was leaving, and jauntily don a fedora and overcoat before grabbing an empty briefcase to catch a train that did not exist. All press requests would be answered by my spokesperson, a parrot that only speaks in heavily accented profanities.
Unless I was working for Dan Snyder, I suspect I would be fired in three weeks or less.
I'd give the offensive and defensive coordinators, whoever they are, near-autonomy, and would only issue directives in the broad sense: place a greater emphasis on throwing deep balls. All personnel being equal, we play aggressively on offense and conservatively on defense.
I would also hire an intern from a business school, whose sole responsibility is to crunch clock-management statistics and tell me when timeouts would be a good or bad idea. I would hire a second intern to study the Romer report and use its formulas to advise me of whether or not it's a good idea to go for it on fourth down.
I could take an average team to 9-7 or 10-6 by avoiding micromanagement and hiring two kids to do math for me. Guaranteed. I'm giving myself at least four years.
Ryan Van Bibber:
Regardless of what point in the season you take over, you've got to pick a system and stick to it AT ALL COSTS. System this, system that, if these guys will just be patient and learn the system, we'll be successful. What my system looks like really doesn't matter, as long as you believe in the system, it will all work out just fine.
The only system I'd be worried about compromising my interim coaching career is my digestive system. NFL coaches are a constipated bunch by nature, ticking time bombs of diverticulitis and bleeding ulcers. At some point one of the players will inevitably question the system, causing a deviation from the careful regimen of probiotics and lagers for at least a day. And my coaching career would end in a series of painful stomach cramps and three-yard hitches.
Let's go full hubris: I think I can make it a whole season. The key is to stick to a scheduled series of events designed to distract from my incompetence for as long as possible. Each of them is accompanied by a coaching generalization which should keep the local media satisfied.
Week 5: I cut our punter. "Field position is too important in this game for us to ignore."
Week 9: I fire the defensive coordinator. "This isn't about blame. It's about shaking things up and lighting a fire."
Week 13: I bench the starting quarterback. "We've always said that no job on this team is safe. You can either play or you can't."
Week 2: unveil the "all wheel routes and four verts" offense, go on to win Super Bowl. Retire immediately. Better to parlay my genius as mentor/commentator/author than be exposed as the fraud I am.
Heres all I would yell over and over again in every game, every practice, every press confrence: "RUN THE BALL DOWN THERE THROATS YOU CAVE MEN!!!"
So a better question would be "when am I goign to retire?"
As a NFL head coach, the best move you can make for job security is to just go around screaming every thing like a Rhinocerous in the middle of a Rhino-human-centipede,, if your dead-hell sent on committing to the ground game your going to placate and win over the very element of your franchises fanbase thats going to be the ones most vocal about calling for you to get fired.
Your turn. As our contributors did, have fun with it. Think of it as Sortie En Mer for football administration: you're going to drown eventually, but the game is all about how long you can stay afloat before succumbing to your environment.
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It took me until the release of Mario Kart 8 to realize competitive time-trialing was a real thing-- like, enough of a thing to merit a Wiki entry on the depth of real, live tactics for it. That clip is not from a time trial, but is a reminder that Luigi leads the game in sheer cold killing rage.
MIKE THE TIGER SAYS YOU DON'T SAY A SEVEN MINUTE HYPE VIDEO WELL SURE I WILL
Just skip to 2:41 for Sleigh Bells and OH MY GOD HOW DID HIGHLIGHT FILMS EVER EXIST BEFORE SLEIGH BELLS. There is hope in this world and it is real and wears cleats and maybe sort of gets paid a little bit under the table by generous, sketchy boosters. There is hope in this world, and it starts in eighty-eight days. There is hope in the world, and shut up we're not talking about Florida football shut up there is hope and it's probably not going to lose to Eastern Michigan shut up shut up shut up---
A DISASTROUS CHARGE AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT A FUMBLE
OXFORD, MS (AP) ---- Sitting in a lawn chair in front of his apartment in Oxford, former Sig Ep brother Tucker McCrae of Ole Miss believes Auburn is doing the right thing by reclaiming national titles from the past.
He thinks Ole Miss should claim a few, too.
"Shiloh and Antietam. Those are the ones I want. We were clearly the better team that day, and several influential historians agree."
McCrae paused in thought, sipped a Bud Light in a coozie, and continued to his roommate, Delano "Del" Campbell of Franklin, TN.
"Probably should take Gettysburg, too. Sometimes the losing team actually played the better game, and Pickett's really just the dude who fumbled on the one."
McCrae, a fifth year junior at the University of Mississippi, is from Alpharetta, Georgia. He is currently unemployed and finishing his degree in business.
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We're sure this is EXACTLY what Rio is going to look like, even thirty years later and without a completely uncouth Arnold Schwarzenegger driving shirtless in a dune buggy.
This one flowchart will help you decide where your World Cup rooting interests lie, and which team is you personified.
There are 32 teams in the World Cup, and for those without existing allegiances jumping into the fray can be a confusing process. We at SB Nation understand this, and are happy to guide you through this process with our custom-built World Cup Team Selection Flowchart.
Simply answer the questions honestly, and you'll identify your true inner World Cup self in no time at all.
[click to make bigger, if not less chaotic]
We hope this helps you in determining your World Cup team alliances and in your overall growth as a human being.
BUT KENTUCKY ALREADY HAS AN IMAGINARY FOOTBALL STADIUM
It's true: Lego stadiums are played out, and the new hotness is creating every single SEC stadium in Minecraft. (Via @Kleph) They haven't done Florida Field yet, but Minecraft is perfect for simulating its imposing blockiness both in the design of the stadium and in the physique and attitude of our head coach and his large, impenetrable skull. We now await the SimCity rendition of "every college town in the SEC after the game ends," which...shit, someone already made with devastating accuracy, minus the actual people throwing up Miller Lite from the windows of their car in front of indifferent policemen.
Oh it's court day, it's court day
It's the first day of the week and it's court day
O'Bannon it's on you
So what you gonna dooooo--
I'm gonna file a grievance for unpaid royalties
I'm gonna embarrass the NCAA
Probably ultimately settle out of court for large sums
It's court day, it's court day
It's the last stand for the N-C-double-A
Mark Emmert it's on you
So what's you gonna do
I'm gonna employ this defense
I'm gonna employ this defense
I'm gonna employ this defense
Let's be honest that's not far from our actual defense
This Monday This Monday
GET YOUR SETTLEMENT ON
GET YOUR SETTLEMENT ON
GET YOUR SETTLEMENT ON
1. John Oliver's gotten really, really good at his job really, really quickly. Everyone will watch this today, and then share it on your social media platform of choice with "WATCH JOHN OLIVER SHRED FIFA LOL", and you'll miss the central and most painful point of this. FIFA is a horrible institution, a toxic cauldron poisoning the soul-warming flame of soccer itself. It's not just that John Oliver can do the Jon Stewart thing you're so fond of hitting the like button on, but it's the deft hand pointing you towards something so much worse that makes Oliver remarkable here: that you'll still watch, because for all its faults something in you and billions of other people still feeds off something in the game, something that enables FIFA despite your best critical instincts. Take that in as evidence of his skill, or hell, just hit the little "Share" button and type LOL. Whether you notice it or not, John Oliver's doing something remarkable here, something broadly applicable to any sports fan struggling with a beloved game that might be in some very filthy custodial hands. (CC: everyone, pretty much.)
2. There actually is a movie about FIFA. Its title is "United Passions," and in case you wonder what narcissistic managerial drones would create a film about corrupt sporting kleptocrats, your answer is simple: the narcissistic managerial bribe-guzzlers at FIFA. They spent $27 million of FIFA's "non-profit" money on the film, and did not even attempt to cover up Sepp Blatter's only remarkable skill as a person in the trailer. ("He is good at finding money.")
THAT TABLE POUND SAVED SOCCER. Add Sam Neill and Tim Roth to the list of actors who will literally appear in anything for money.
3. You can watch the entire E:60 on Qatar's labor atrocities here, and should.
THAT'S THE WHOLE THESIS. HE LOOKS JUST LOOKS FANTASTIC AT SEA.
We have mocked the man's football, style, and lack of height. We have derided his team as the worst manifestation of soulless mecha-football, pro-style drones programmed to drain all joy out of the game of college football. We have made fun of how much he is paid, both because we hate people with more money than us, and also because he is paid truckloads of cash to coach a child's game in a state with abominable quality of life indicators. We have made fun of him trying to win a game with a field goal, and then losing that game on a returned field goal attempt in crushing, unprecedented fashion.
(Note: we will never, ever stop making fun of Nick Saban and Alabama for that, ever. Hi, take this pre-emptively.)
What we cannot take away from him, ever: that man looks fucking awesome on a boat. Just look at him.
We thought about going full Heart of Darkness or Captain Queeg on him here, but the image disables all attempts to satirize because...well, after all these years, we think we've found the one thing that makes Nick Saban not just un-miserable, but happy: tearing ass out on the lake in a kickass boat with the wind in his hair. There's your happy place, Nick. Go to it when you need it, buddy.* We'll meet you halfway.
*When Gus Malzahn's running some triflin'-ass hurry-up high school shit for 400 yards on your defense, for example.
At last, the beverage for the person who doesn't want to leave a single percentage point unused, but wants that perfect ZERO LIFE. (Via Paul.)
The Atlantic made a 22 minute documentary about the 2014 Barkley Marathon, a forbidding ultramarathon run through hellaciously hilly Morgan County, Tennessee. It only took the sole finisher in the documentary fifty hours to collapse, nearly give up, and then notice the waving of the tree branches in the wind, but bloody feet and physical annihilation are a small price to pay to star in your own Terence Malick movie in the freezing woods of East Tennessee.
P.S. Bonus points for showing the race's founder firing up a cigarette the minute the starting bell goes off.
IT'D TAKE LESS THAN 44 MINUTES
[a Dixieland jazz refrain plays]
A courtroom in Oakland, California. Ben Matlock strides to the front of the courtroom.
NCAA counsel: Objection! Opposing counsel is deceased.
Matlock: We gonna let technicalities ruin a good morning, your honor? [smiles 500 watt grin]
Judge: Just this once, Mr. Matlock.
Matlock: I sure do appreciate that, your honor.
[Defense counsel sets self on fire]
Matlock: I'd like to call my first witness: the NCAA.
[NCAA takes the stand]
Matlock: Now, good morning to you. State your name and profession.
NCAA: I'm the NCAA. My job is [mumbles incoherently]
Matlock: I'm sorry, I didn't catch that.
NCAA: It's hard to explain.
Matlock: I have time for my friends, sir. And we are friends, aren't we?
[five hours pass]
Matlock: Well alright, let's get on to business. Do college sports make money?
NCAA: In some cases, yes.
Matlock: And who sees that money?
NCAA: You know, money has a lot of definitions, and---
Matlock: You paid in money?
Matlock: And the coaches, they get paid in money?
NCAA: Oh heavens yes.
Matlock: And the student-athlete---
NCAA: They receive a scholarship, and a stipend.
Matlock: Can I buy some DELICIOUS BISCUITS AND A SWEET CADILLAC with that scholarship?
[turns to jury, grins, winks, hands out old fashioned candies like licorice sticks and sarsparilla to all of them without the judge saying a word]
Maybe get a room at Lake Lanier, rent me a paddleboat and play a little golf while I'm at it?
Matlock: We're waiting.
[three days elapse]
Judge: This trial is over, Jesus that was stupid, let's go home.
[Dixieland jazz plays, credits roll]
There's only one game on Thursday, and it's a good one.
Teams: Croatia v. Brazil
Where: Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, which most importantly is in BRAZIL, where the BRAZILIAN TEAM will be playing in front of a crowd of adoring, angry, loving, and very rambunctious BRAZILIAN SOCCER FANS. Arena Corinthians is the only World Cup stadium to be explicitly mentioned in an episode of the Simpsons, and Brazilian legend Rivellino scored the first goal there. (P.S. Rivellino looks a lot like everyone's 1975 Dad, making him very, very important for more than just soccer reasons.)
What I'm watching Brazil for: Taking the field and not shattering under the pressure, mostly. After that five minutes and some jittery moments against a Croatian team bent on playing defense and counter-attacking, you'll be watching for the usual backheel-passing, bike-kicking, brilliant through-balling Brazilian-ness at work. Sometimes it's not even about whether they score, but how cool the attempt looked, and that's why even the biggest soccer naif can boggle at their naked skill and casual daring. Bonus: they have a player named "Fred," which sounds hilarious in any language's goal calls.
What I'm watching Croatia for: Survival. Playing without their starting striker, Croatia will be stressed at every single position to keep up with Brazil and their ability to bring everyone save the goalie into the offensive game plan. Croatia is a very good soccer team, and their reward in FIFA's universe is to be fed one leg at a time into the hungry maw of Brazil as the first meal for an astonishingly talented home team. Yes, George R.R. Martin would make a fantastic FIFA President, as he already understands FIFA's basic organizational M.O. and ethos.
World Cup 2014
World Cup 2014
Intangibles: The real possibility Croatia could counter, score, and knock Brazil on its heels early; the aforementioned jitters in front of a frothing home crowd; Croatia gaining extra power from the snazzy checkerboard pattern on its World Cup kits; everyone being late for the game due to strikes.
Announcers: Ian Darke, Steve McManaman. This bar is open and it is only serving top shelf to the first wave of customers.
Watchability: 9/10, will watch if we have to stream it on our phone while driving back home from the airport. (don't do this) (even if you're thinking seriously about doing this) Brazil's an automatic 6/10 by themselves, add the cantankerous and game Croatians for another point, and finally tack on two more points for being the champagne cork rocketing off the face of the soccer-giddy world.
Seriously, Tim Cahill is a damn kangaroo.
Mexico vs. Cameroon (aka THE WORLD'S ONLY RIVALRY CONTINUES)
Where: Arena Das Dunas, Natal. Probably the best stadium built for the World Cup, Arena das Dunas' design reflects the trademark giant dunes of Natal state. If you did not know that, it still looks like a very expensive and stylish ash tray.
What I'm watching Mexico for: continuing signs of a pulse. Sliding ass-backwards into qualifying, fresh off warm-up losses to Portugal and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico remains...alive. This is something we can definitely say about Mexico: they are alive, and hoping to stave off collapse with a lot of lineup shuffling and pure effort. That sounds like a dodgy plan, you say? At least Mexico are sort of fun to watch. There are worse plans.
What I'm watching Cameroon for:Speaking of worse plans. You watch Cameroon for...um...fights? A pregame flare-up of the contract dispute that nearly kept the team home for the World Cup? An old and angry Samuel Eto'o threatening someone's life? It's hard to say exactly what you're going to see out of Cameroon. If it's frustration taken out in Mexico's direction, they win, but Cameroon could just as easily take out their frustrations internally and combust before our very eyes, as they are this Cup's Team Most Likely To Get A Red Card In An Incident Involving Teammates.
Intangibles: Mexico (like, the entire team); Cameroon (also, entire team.)
Announcers: Fernando Palomo and Alejandro Moreno. Fun fact: Palomo used to throw javelin competitively in college, a skill which we really hope he won't have to use in the course of calling this match.
Watchability: This is a connoisseur's call. Two uneven teams competing in the first match of their tourney just screams shock and dysfunction in all directions, so if confusing frenzy is your thing, this is already hanging at about a six. However, either team is capable of slipping into long bouts of torpid nothingness. Watchability brokers thus call this at somewhere around a 5/10 on pure watchability, averaging out the possibility of a bonkers 10/10 and a dullard's special of 0/10.
Spain vs. Netherlands (aka REPLAY OF THAT TIME A DUDE KICKED ANOTHER DUDE IN THE CHEST)
Where: Arena Fonte Nova, in Salvador, Bahia. Salvador is famous for outdoor parties. In Brazil, a nation known for outdoor parties. This is like Germans recognizing your town as being the national leader in grim existential brooding, and no one is having a bad time before or after this game.
What I'm watching Spain for: The usual five hundred passes in a row. It would be very easy to say that the defending champions' Brownian Motion Offense has been solved, and that the 3-0 defeat by Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup is the blueprint for disrupting them. It may be, but a crucial element of that plan is being as talented as Brazil, which your soccer team most likely isn't. Spain are probably less dangerous than they were four years ago, and that downgrades them to a mere "slightly fatal" in this competition.
What I'm watching Netherlands for: Van Persie, Robben, and Sneijder working like mad to make something happen offensively for the Dutch, which depends on someone dispossessing Spain in the back, and now you get a sense of why playing Spain can be so frustrating for even the best teams in the world. If all else fails, Nigel De Jong can just start assaulting people. The chances of this happening are very good.
Intangibles: The usual nerves; Arjen Robben going off for two goals; the game being interrupted for several hours of beach barbecuing; part of the stadium roof collapsing, as it did after heavy rains in 2013.
Announcers: Jon Champion and Stewart Robson.
Watchability: A game with Spain stands around a 7/10 already, but a rematch with their World Cup final opponents in the first match of their 2014 World Cup campaign gets this up to a straight 9/10 on pure watchability.
Chile vs. Australia (aka WHAT DID POOR AUSTRALIA EVER DO TO YOU?)
Where: Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Mato Grosso, the exact center of the South American continent. It's the Kansas of Brazil!*
*Comparison value for accuracy in any sense but geography: zero dollars American
What I'm watching Chile for: Plunder, mostly. Chile play a wildly aggressive form of soccer, score goals, run real hard-like, and generally do a good job defeating every negative stereotype of the beautiful game peddled by American talk radio meatheaps. Their star Arturo Vidal is hobbled by injury, but fortunately for Chile the opponent probably won't be able to take advantage of that absence, as the opponent is brave and somewhat hapless here.
[/looks under "brave and hapless" in soccer dictionary...]
What I'm watching Australia for: Brave and hapless effort accompanied by spectacularly profane songs. (VERY NSFW.)
Anything is possible. However, what's probable are lots of Chilean goals answered by long, hopeless crosses into Tim Cahill in the box.
Intangibles: Tim Cahill's ability to head goals in despite being buried beneath five or six grown men; Chile's odd stance as the favorite; beer, a drunken intangible that forever bends in Australia's favor.
Announcers: Daniel Mann, Kasey Keller, and sadly not Kasey Keller's megamullet.
There are four group-stage games today, and fortunately for those of us who enjoy soccer only one of them involves Greece.
Colombia vs. Greece (12:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Estadio Mineirão, in Belo Horizonte. Notable for not being a new stadium built directly over the ruins of displaced orphanages.
What I'm watching Colombia for: Seeing if they can manufacture chances without star striker Radamel Falcao, out with a knee injury. This matters double since Greece will stack all eleven men like cordwood in front of the net, because this is what Greece does. Creativity will be desperately needed.
What I'm watching Greece for: I don't know why anyone watches Greece, but in the course of a two-team matchup in a soccer game you will, unfortunately, have to watch them. Greece are less a soccer team than a giant speed reduction hump built into the middle of a busy street. Pray they do not score a goal early.
Intangibles: Colombia's glee at returning to the Cup; Greece being so frustrating Colombia accidentally gives them a goal; are we really going to have to watch Greece play soccer; dammit, we are really going to have to watch Greece play soccer.
Announcers: Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman
Watchability: Greece is involved, and that's not good for overall watchability. A conservative 3/10 is the best estimate, with a ceiling of 6/10 for the enthusiast who savors Greece's demise. (That enthusiast is meeeeeee.)
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica (3:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Estadio Castelão, Fortaleza. Fortaleza is known for producing MMA fighters, so let's call it the Stockton, California of Brazil?
What I'm watching Uruguay for: To see if Luis Suarez makes an appearance, since he definitely won't be starting because of a lingering knee injury. Uruguay's still dangerous without him, even if Diego Forlan is now old, and will have to rely solely on his flowing blond hair, stunning good looks, and buckets of cash to get him through life. Keylor Navas will be fun to watch in goal, since most goalies who have to fend off a ton of shots are.
What I'm watching Costa Rica for: The random score that sends a lightning bolt through Uruguay and sends the match into a full panic, most likely off the foot of a rapacious Joel Campbell, Costa Rica's talented young striker. Also watching for Costa Rica's back line to fall asleep and allow a laugher of goal, because that's sort of a thing they can totally do to themselves.
Announcers: Jon Champion, Stewart Hobson
Watchability: A solid 6/10
England vs. Italy (6:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Arena Amazonia, Manaus. That's the field groundskeepers have had to paint green due to dead patches. Oh, and the temperatures will be around ninety with eighty percent humidity at gametime. This is what happens when you play a game in the heart of Amazonia in the late afternoon.
What I'm watching England for: Melting in the heat, followed up by the possibility that despite being an obvious underdog here England might steal a goal or two away from Italy if they knife through Italy's static midfield. Wayne Rooney's playing, too! English fans will either love or hate this, with no reactions in between allowed whatsoever.
What I'm watching Italy for: Pirlo and his magnificent beard, the appearance of goalie Gianluigi Buffon after an ankle tweak in practice this week, and the usual Italian brilliance peppered with the usual Italian floppiness. The matchups here are fairly even, so in a cruel game like soccer a shady penalty would usually be the difference here. A shady penalty is definitely going to be the difference here.
Announcers: Ian Darke, Steve McManaman, the Invisible Ghost Of English Sorrows Past
Watchability:Complimentary weaknesses colored by the real possibility of a tragicomic finish? 8/10, cannot miss viewing.
Côte d'Ivoire vs. Japan (9:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
What I'm watching Côte d'Ivoire for: GOALS. GOALS GOALS GOALS GOALS GOALS. Les Elephants are creative, inconsistent, flaky, brilliant at times, and capable and fond of scoring. If you don't love Yaya Touré you are dead, and why are you reading this, dead person? And how? SHARE YOUR SECRETS WITH US, MAGICAL ZOMBIE.
What I'm watching Japan for: Keeping up with CDI handily, since Japan, too, prefers to score goals rather than wait for something to happen. Japan's fun, but in a different kind of way than Côte d'Ivoire, preferring a more organized attack with more defined roles. (Yes, the World Cup is sometimes exactly about the kind of national stereotyping your liberal arts education warned you about.)
Announcers: Derek Rae, Efan Ekoku
Watchability: 8/10, via relentless offense and two teams who couldn't really play consistent defense if they tried.
Mostly you should be watching to see if France implode. And if they don't against Honduras, fear not: there will be other games.
Ecuador vs. Switzerland (12:00 p.m ET)
Where: Estadio Nacional, Brasilia. More fully known as Estadio Nacional de Mané Garrincha, after the legendary Brazilian soccer player Garrincha.
What I'm watching Switzerland for: Okay, "watching" is a generous word for a game that comes on in prime errand team involving a Swiss team that has allowed just one goal in its last seven World Cup games. Switzerland is a stingy, defensive-minded squad, so you can expect little in the way of offense coming or going here. Honestly, you might want to go grocery shopping. That's practical advice, something we imagine the Swiss have to respect.
What I'm watching Ecuador for: Mostly attacks along the wings from la Tri, and then a long wait to see if the back four can hold against Switzerland's underpowered attack. If this is sounding like the tourney's first clanker and a probably 0-0 draw, well, that is indeed where this feels like it's heading.
Announcers: Adrian Healey, Alejandro Moreno
Watchability:2/10, go have a nice brunch and call your dad
France vs. Honduras (3:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre. Located right on the banks of the Guaîba River, it's one of the cooler geographic settings for this World Cup.
What I'm watching France for: The demonstrated ability to annihilate a lesser opponent, as France should be able to do since they happen to be very good this time around. On paper, the French midfield should steamroll Honduras, control the ball, and waltz out of this game with a win and a hefty goal differential. In reality, this is a French team at the World Cup, and that can go a lot of different ways-- including the very, very bad ones. But it's different this time, says France, looking in the mirror and nodding uneasily. It's totally different.
What I'm watching Honduras for: Brave survival in a lopsided matchup against a superior team? Honduras has breathtaking beaches. Let's remember those breathtaking beaches at a moment like this, Honduras.
Announcers: Daniel Mann, Kasey Keller
Watchability:4/10, provided France at least gives the viewer the reward of a quick blowout.
Argentina vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina (6:00 p.m.)
Where: Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro. (Thank you, Brazil, for teaching me all the shortcuts on typing accents on a Mac.)
What I'm watching Argentina for: Defensive cohesion, really, since any team with Messi, Higuain, and Agüero up front has zero concerns offensively. Argentina's defense isn't top-flight, their goalkeeping situation hasn't been inspiring, and..um...Messi? We mentioned LIONEL MESSI, right? We should just say "MESSI" over and over again and hope the rest catches up, Argentina.
What I'm watching Bosnia and Herzegovina for: To see if Edin Dzeko can make a few things happen, keep Bosnia and Herzegovina alive, and maybe compensate for some of Bosnia and Herzegovina's defensive shortcomings. (Which are much, much worse than Argentina's.) On the positive side, they are called "The Dragons," easily one of the top five team nicknames of the tournament. Not even a likely 4-1 loss to Argentina can take that away from them.
Announcers: Derek Rae and Roberto Martinez
Watchability: Easily the best matchup on a lackluster day, we'll give this game a conservative 6/10 for what should at least be an interesting first half.
Germany vs. Portugal (12:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador. You know, the part of Brazil where Anthony Bourdain gets drunk on caipirinhas and makes you hate him even more for having his job.
What I'm watching Germany for: Their lineup, mostly, since injuries have forced some spectacular juggling of their talented pieces, and because those pieces will have to be arranged defensively at Portugal's primary threat, the often-shirtless Cristiano Ronaldo. At 78 years old, Miroslav Klose could even make an appearance. (And probably score two goals.)
What I'm watching Portugal for: That shirtless man, and whether he's going to a.) be fully recovered from a nagging left knee injury, or b.) score like crazy, remove his shirt, and then strip his skin off to reveal an even more beautiful form you previously thought impossible in humanity.
Intangibles: Portugal getting frustrated and turning the second half into a despicable flop-fest; Germany's focus being diluted by Jurgen Klinsmann mass-mailing the roster fresh U.S. passports.
Announcers: Jon Champion, Stewart Robson
Watchability: Two first-rank teams playing at noon on a work day? 9/10
Iran vs. Nigeria (3:00 p.m ET)
Where: Arena de Baixada, Curitaba. Built in 1914 on a former Brazilian Army gunpowder depot, the stadium may be the most explosive part of this game.
What I'm watching Iran for: a semblance of offense, since Iran's a defensive team all too happy to park every bus they can find in front of goal and hope for the best.
What I'm watching Nigeria for: "Cohesion" is the best fake answer here, since the honest answer is "this is Nigeria, one of the most mercurial sides in the world. They could score four today, or lose 1-0 to Iran on an own goal."
Intangibles: "Nigerian soccer."
Announcers: Derek Rae, Efan Ekoku
Watchability: There has to be a disastrous hole in every World Cup schedule, and this is it. 1/10, only value comes in "Morbid Fascination" category.
United States vs. Ghana (6:00 p.m. ET)
Where: Estadio das Dunas, Natal
What I'm watching the United States for: LOVE AND COUNTRY. And also to see how the debut of the Klinsmann youth movement handles a first match against the team that yes, has eliminated the United States from the past two World Cups. As always, the back four of the United States is of grave concern to anyone who'd like them to win, but this team is built around the midfield and Michael Bradley. If he holds and dictates pace, the United States have a chance at drawing or -- hope is the greatest dare of all! -- pulling out a win here.
What I'm watching Ghana for: Defense, since the Black Stars have been short on production lately and will be playing this match in what is likely to be be heavy rain. That leads to the counter, which depends on the back four of the USMNT staying solid, and that's why you watch this game in a bar, because drinking solves as many problems as it creates.
Intangibles: Nerves; the ghosts of 2-1 losses to a nation roughly the size of the state of Oregon; Clint Dempsey's temper; the requisite appearance of a drunken and freshly bribed FIFA ref.
Watchability: 10/10, as I am an American incapable of making an objective call on this game's watchability. (Probably more like a 5/10 for the rest of the world, but whatever GO GO USA.)