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Monthly Archives: June 2018

Ranking the 16 Teams Left in Terms of Who I Want to Win

Ranking the 16 Teams Left in Terms of Who I Want to Win

It’s here! The Knockout Stage has arrived, bringing with it everything Americans love about sports!

You like elimination games? Got those too!

You hate ties? So do we! How about some penalty kicks if overtime isn’t enough?

Now is the perfect time to jump on board the World Cup if you aren’t already on the bandwagon. And if you’re not sure which team you should root for, come up with a totally random points system. That’s what I did!

Here’s the system I created to find out who I should cheer for:

  • Star Power: I ranked every team handed out the most points to the brightest stars (16 to 1 pts).
  • Fan Hunger: The more World Cup success the team has, the less hungry their fans are (16 to 1 pts).
  • Kit Points: The better looking your set of kits it, the more you score (5 to 0 pts).
  • Bonus Points: a handful of teams deserved bonus points for random reasons (Up to 10 pts).

From Last to First, here are the teams I am rooting for in the 2018 World Cup

16 – Spain: 8 Points

Star Power Points: 10

Fan Hunger Points: 1

Kit Points: 2

Bonus Points: -5

The negative bonus points are for winning it all […]

2018-06-30T18:11:25+00:00

Koreans and Mexicans are Now (and Always Were) Brothers

Koreans and Mexicans are Now (and Always Were) Brothers

One of the quirky things I’ve grown to love about the World Cup is the dual-stage format, which ensures everyone gets at least three games in the Group Stage before moving on or going home.

The round-robin format of this stage occasionally leads to a situation like we had on Wednesday, where Mexico’s fate was not being determined by their game in Ekaterinburg Arena, but rather by one happening 600 miles away. The situation looked like this: should the Koreans beat Germany or hold them to a draw, Mexico would secure second place in Group F and advance. Should South Korea lose, it would be Germany in the Knockout Stage and Mexico going home.

In the end, South Korea scored twice in stoppage time counter attacks to eliminate the defending champions and push Mexico through to the next round. It didn’t take long for joyous viral videos to surface of Mexican fans celebrating like crazy; serenading Korean fans at soccer stadiums and even at the South Korean embassy in Mexico.  

“¡Coreano, hermano, ya eres mexicano,” they sang, which meant, “Korea, brother, you are now Mexican!”

Sports, man…they bring out the best in us.

It wasn’t but ten minutes later that my mind flashbacked to a story I had read just a week earlier about Mexican soccer fans. Apparently they had been chanting divisive slurs at opposing players in their opening match (something they are […]

2018-06-29T15:33:16+00:00

10 Things I’ve Learned in the First Two Weeks of the World Cup

10 Things I’ve Learned in the First Two Weeks of the World Cup

The World Cup started two weeks ago today, and during this last fortnight, while my son has played over 50 hours of Fortnite, I’ve watched over 50 hours of soccer.

That’s a lot of kicks, grabs, headers, tackles, saves, goals, flops, and thunder claps.

I’m learning a lot about the game (and myself) as I immerse myself into it, so without further ado, here are ten things I didn’t know two weeks ago that I know now.

1 – I’ve learned who my soccer-loving friends are.

Since I announced that I was doing this project two weeks ago I’ve heard from a lot of friends who said they were jealous of me or excited that I was trying to embrace their favorite sport. Shawn, Joaquin, Jason, Alejandro, Kyle, and a few of others think I am living the dream right now.

That being said…

2 – I’ve learned that a lot of people I know don’t love soccer

For every one person who has expressed genuine interest in my World Cup Immersion, I’ve had at least nine tell me that I’m insane for taking on such a torturous assignment. The words they use…so hurtful. What did soccer ever do to you?

A sampling of actual things people have said to me…

“It’s just so boring. No one scores and everyone flops.”

“Hey, let’s run around for 90 […]

2018-06-27T21:28:52+00:00

When Real Life Gets in the Way of the World Cup

When Real Life Gets in the Way of the World Cup

As of Sunday evening here on the East Coast, the 2018 World Cup halfway over. 32 games have been played, 32 games remain.

How many of those 32 games have I watched, you ask? Well, I’d love to tell you I cleared everything off my schedule for the last 11 days and did not miss a single match, but that would be the equivalent of a Suarez embellishment on a phantom tackle. In other words, ugly and fake.

Here’s the good news: I watched the first 16 matches of this World Cup in their entirety. From Russia’s 5-0 romp over Saudi Arabia to Japan’s surprise 2-1 win over Columbia five days later. Not to pat myself on the back, and definitely not to pat Pepe on the back, but it was an impressive start.

A few days ago I shared the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten since I started this project, but one question I left off that list was this: “How are you making time to watch all this soccer?!?!”

For the first 16 games I was a machine. Everything and everyone took a back seat to my new soccer appetite. It also helped that I didn’t have anything on the calendar that couldn’t be moved, which was incredibly serendipitous.

But after those first 16? Well, real life tried […]

2018-06-25T18:33:40+00:00

A Q&A With Our Soccer Skeptic

A Q&A With Our Soccer Skeptic

As my friends and family have taken notice of this World Cup Immersion project, I’ve received a lot of questions via texts, tweets, messages, and even in person.

So, I thought I’d compile the seven most frequently asked questions I’ve been getting, along with my answers.

“Who are you rooting for to win it all? Do you have a favorite team?”

With the U.S. not in this tournament, I certainly did not have a clear-cut favorite coming in, but there is one team I am pulling for above all the others. That team is Portugal.

My mother’s side of the family comes from Portugal – the Madeira Islands of Portugal to be exact – so I’ve got a lot of Portuguese blood running through my veins. Couple the genetics with my predilection for watching the biggest stars perform on the biggest stage, and that makes Ronaldo’s side the team I am pulling for the hardest right now.

My Honorable Mention? Denmark, but only because I want to yell “Schmeichel!” every time he makes a save as much as possible over these next few weeks.

“There are so many games! Are you looking forward to this tournament being over already?”

Absolutely not. But I will say that I am starting to get antsy for the knockout stage to begin, for two reasons.

One – I’m looking forward to better matchups. The possibility of a Brazil – Germany matchup in […]

2018-06-21T21:28:08+00:00

Everyone Has Played Once, Time for Some Awards!

Everyone Has Played Once, Time for Some Awards!

With the end of the Poland vs. Senegal match Tuesday afternoon I’ve now seen all 32 teams play across these 16 games. You know what that means, right?

Time for some awards!

That’s right, I’m excited to announce the first ever Schmeichel Awards!

(You’ll have to read on understand the name.)

THE SCHMEICHEL AWARDS

Best Win

And the Schmeichel goes to … MEXICO for their 1-0 win over Germany. They beat the defending champs, and their fans celebrated so hard that it was picked up by seismographs in Mexico City. Is there anything better in sports than a passionate fanbase winning as underdogs? I think not.

Best Draw

And the Schmeichel goes to … PORTUGAL AND SPAIN for their 3-3 draw. This was the best game of the first 16 for me. It had everything: big stars coming through in big moments, multiple lead changes, an amazing strike (by Nacho), a late goal, and a hat trick from arguably the game’s best player. More of this in my life, please.

Best Loss

And the Schmeichel goes to … there is no winner! This was a trick category! There is no such thing as a good loss in the World Cup. (See, I’m learning about soccer!)

Best Snack I Ate

And the Schmeichel goes to … MICROWAVE POPCORN COVERED IN PARMESAN CHEESE. I enjoyed it so much on Friday that I […]

2018-06-20T16:14:26+00:00

I Skipped Church to Watch the World Cup

I Skipped Church to Watch the World Cup

I have a confession to make: I skipped church to watch the World Cup on Father’s Day.

Well, technically I didn’t skip, since I watched the service from home, but it sort of felt like I did.

After a 10-hour marathon of games on Saturday you’d think I might have used church as an excuse to skip out on a game or two, but not me. I’m faithful and committed to the cause of the World Cup right now.

Our church’s main campus has Sunday services at 9am and 11am ET, streaming from our website and on Facebook. I knew there would be some overlap between the games and the message, but ours is a second-screen culture at this point, so why couldn’t I take in both at once?

As I was setting up my dual-screen viewing situation, I got a text from my dad wishing me a Happy Father’s Day. I responded in kind, and wished him a great day. He lives six hours away in Massachusetts, so unfortunately we wouldn’t get to spend time together, but it was still good to connect.

So much of who I am as a man has been shaped by my dad, and for that I’m thankful. It’s funny, I never set out to fill my life with things he filled his life with, but here I am at age 41 doing a lot of the same things […]

2018-06-19T11:18:16+00:00

A Running Diary of the Longest Day of the World Cup

Since today is the longest day of the World Cup, and in light of the dream about Bill Simmons I had last night, let’s do a running diary of all four games today!

5:41am – The alarm goes off, and I’m out of bed. I immediately remember a dream I had about Bill Simmons where my wife and I asked him for a tour of his offices. He declined but instead gave me his cellphone number, because dreams are dumb and never make sense. I decide that today would be a good day to borrow one of Bill’s favorite column formats, the running diary.

5:50am – First cup of coffee and a few minutes of quiet time, bible reading and prayer. There’s a lot of soccer to be watched today, Lord give me the strength.

6:00am – And we’re off. France vs. Australia. Should be noted that Australia’s yellow on yellow kits are a crime against my eyes. Very possible that INTERPOL shows up at some point to make some arrests, surprised the announcers haven’t mentioned this yet.

6:25am – FOX’s color guy for this game, Tony Meola, might have the most subdued tone of any announcer I’ve ever heard, and that’s the kindest way I can put it. Inflection and volume are your friend, Tony. I’m wondering if he switched up his nightly sleeping pill and morning vitamins?

6:45am – Well that was the most boring half of soccer of the tournament […]

2018-06-17T15:27:29+00:00

Day 2 on my New Diet, the #Goal30

Day 2 on my New Diet, the #Goal30

“How’s the great World Cup Immersion going?” a buddy texted my late Friday afternoon.

“So far, so great,” was my response, “but it’s still early.”

And it is still early. 4 games down, 60 to go.

I swear I’ve had this exact feeling before, and at first I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. I’ve never gone “all in” on a month-long sporting event before, so why was I feeling a vague sense of deja-vu?

Then it hit me.

I HAVE had this feeling before. This swirl of surprising optimism, cautious hopefulness, and slight dread at what might be coming. This is exactly like going on a diet.

Only instead of giving up bread and sugar for vegetables and lean chicken breast, I’m giving up golf and hanging at the pool for corner kicks and counter attacks.

I’m doing the sports equivalent of #Whole30. I’m doing #Goal30.

Behold the similarities, just two days in…

Day 1 of any diet is the easiest. You welcome the hunger pangs because they remind you that you actually ARE making a change. “Feel that angry burn, stomach? That is the sensation of weight being shed! Get used to it. I’M THE CAPTAIN NOW!”

That’s how I felt on Thursday. I missed a half a day of U.S. Open golf coverage to watch Russia take Saudi Arabia behind the woodshed and beat […]

2018-06-15T23:28:18+00:00

Welcome to Conversion By Immersion

Conversion by Immersion

My name is Bryan, and I’m about to end a 41-year old personal drought of ignoring soccer.

Make no mistake, I’m a huge sports fan. I spent the first 21 years of my life becoming a man in Massachusetts, where everyone – including aunts, grandmothers, and your middle school paperboy – can tell you the weakest spot in the Red Sox lineup at any point in July.

The same goes for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I’ve lived for the past 20 years after chasing my wife here (I caught her). I’m in Eagles country, and the fact that I didn’t just refer to them as the “Super Bowl LII Champion Philadelphia Eagles” probably just pissed off half of my wife’s side of the family. Eagles fans, so annoying, amirite?

Most of you reading this in the United States have a similar story. I’m not sure if a $69 test from Ancestry.com would confirm it or not, but fandom for specific teams is just in our blood. From the Trailblazers in Portland to the Cardinals in St. Louis to the Cowboys in Dallas, it’s an unassailable feature of American culture.

And with the 21st World Cup starting up this week, I’m also well aware that this is how most of the world feels about the game of soccer.

I, certainly, do not.

I know enough about soccer. I understand an offsides trap. I know it’s called a “Table” and not “Standings,” and that being in the bottom 3 […]

2018-06-15T22:00:12+00:00
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