Joe

About Joe Levin

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So far Joe Levin has created 25 blog entries.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Where Do We Go from Here?

“So, you’re going to follow soccer now?”

I’ve received that question in some form or fashion almost every day for the last week.

The short answer to that question is, “I think so.”

The long answer is, “I think so, but I’m not really sure what that even means.”

I think I summed it up best in a conversation with my buddy Tyler the other day when he asked me that very question. “If this was The Bachelor,” I responded, “I would not be getting on one knee with a Neil Lane diamond ring to propose to soccer, but I would be giving it the final rose to keep the relationship going.”

That’s where I stand with soccer heading into the final two days of the tournament. It’s too early to put a ring on it, but I absolutely want to see where this goes.

So what are my potential next steps, and how likely am I to take them?

Here are five possibilities.

1 – Attend a live soccer game.

The MLS Season runs through October, so there’s still plenty of time to attend a game if I want to experience soccer in person. The Philadelphia Union play about an hour away, and for less than $50 a pop I can get a decent seat.

I’m definitely not ready to fly somewhere to take in a marquee soccer matchup, but a night […]

2018-07-14T18:33:43+00:00

The World Cup Doesn’t Take a Vacation

The World Cup Doesn’t Take a Vacation

Two things happened this week that I never thought would have thought could have occurred.

1) I never thought I’d be distracted from a round of golf by a soccer game, and 2) I never thought I’d be sitting on a beach trying to figure out where I was going to find a television to watch the World Cup.

What has happened to me?

We’d had this 3-day vacation booked for a few months now, long before I ever had the idea to immerse myself in the 2018 World Cup. I’m not a huge beach fan, but this quick trip to Avalon, N.J., with some good friends of ours was something our family had been looking forward to for a while. The plan was to arrive on Monday morning and do a whole lot of nothing until we left early Wednesday evening. And then the World Cup happened.

The two semi-final games were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, which posed a little bit of a problem for me. In addition to booking our stay a couple of months ago, my buddy had also booked a tee time for late Tuesday morning at a local golf course. I had scheduled the DVR at home to record both games in case I wanted to watch them later, but I knew that for the France vs. Belgium game on Tuesday, I was going to be relying on real-time updates on […]

2018-07-13T00:21:54+00:00

What Soccer Can Give and Take from Other Sports

What Soccer Can Give and Take from Other Sports

I’ve never been a soccer fan, as you know, but I do love consuming massive quantities of televised sports every year. From the NFL to the NBA to following the Red Sox and the PGA Tour all summer, I’m a sports junkie.

As I’ve consumed World Cup soccer this past month, I’ve picked up on a few things that soccer could be better at, and also a few things other sports could learn from the beautiful game. That’s why I’d like to propose the first ever set of trades between sports. And no, I’m not talking about trading players, I’m talking about trading ideas and concepts.

Sounds crazy? More like crazy awesome. Without further ado, here are five hypothetical trades that would make the sports world a better place.

TRADE #1 – Soccer trades yellow and red cards to basketball in exchange for proper inbounding.

I’ve never understood the “fouling out” rule in basketball. Whether it’s the five you get in college or the six in the NBA, it’s one of the worst rules in all of sports. No one watches games to see referees keep star players off the court! Basketball needs to take a page from soccer and have no limit to the amount of fouls a player can receive. Implement yellow and red cards for egregious fouls, but let players keep playing for the minor infractions. The free throws awarded the other team are […]

2018-07-09T19:57:23+00:00

The Great Soccer Divide

The Great Soccer Divide

Since I left my career as an engineer in the pharmaceutical industry six years ago, I’ve been involved in a handful of projects and opportunities.

I’ve written a humor book, freelanced for a tech startup, launched (and shuttered) a business helping folks travel on frequent flyer miles, written an NFL preview guide, and started 3 podcasts. I’ve done a lot of things and have received a lot of feedback – some positive, some negative – on everything I’ve done.

But nothing, and I mean NOTHING that I’ve done has even come close to garnering as much feedback as this World Cup immersion project.

Everyone here in the United States seems to have an opinion about soccer, and they can’t wait to let me know what it is. I’m never had this type of experience with a project before, and honestly, I’ve never heard such passionate opinions about a sport before.

Football is still the most popular sport here in America. Basketball, specifically the NBA, is probably the fastest growing sport in popularity. Baseball is the most storied in tradition and history. Where does that leave soccer in America? Do we just group it together with hockey, tennis, golf, auto racing, and extreme sports as some kind of a second-tier, niche-only, pastime?

I don’t think we can do that.

Because soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and because Americans love to think we’re at the […]

2018-07-07T16:30:32+00:00

Are PK’s OK?

Are PK’s OK?

Can we talk about penalties for a minute?

(And yes, by “penalties” I mean “penalty kicks.” Don’t think I haven’t started picking up on the little nuances of soccer jargon over these last three weeks.)

As someone who is investing himself into multiple soccer games per day, every day, for the first time ever, I feel like we need to discuss this.

Every sport has a way of figuring out a winner when a regulation-length competition is not enough. Some sports choose to alter their format to ensure a winner is decided in a timely fashion, others opt for keeping things the same no matter how long it takes.

Soccer has chosen the former over the latter, but does this newbie think it’s the right decision? Are penalties the best way to determine the winner of a soccer match if no winner has been determined in regulation? I have the correct answer, but before I give it to you, a little background.

Baseball, basketball, and hockey fans will tell you that their sports have chosen integrity over convenience. If no winner has been decided during the normal course of play, normal play keeps going. Baseball adds innings, basketball adds 5-minute periods, and hockey adds a sudden-death 20-minute period.

In all three of these sports, there is no limit to how long the game can go. The upside is that no one complains about the integrity of a win, […]

2018-07-05T13:10:10+00:00

Blinded by the Bright Lights

Blinded by the Bright Lights

I’m not sure who was more bummed out on Saturday evening, me or the executives from FOX.

Messi? Gone. Ronaldo? Gone. The promise of an epic matchup next Friday between the game’s two biggest names on Friday disappeared in the blink of an eye, like a Mbappé one-timer into the back of the net.

I came into Saturday’s games, the first of the Knockout Stage, ready to see the stars shine. I think I’m starting to appreciate good team soccer, but as a relative newbie, I’m still drawn most to the brightest lights on the pitch. If I’m not watching the ball (which I almost always am), I’m looking for the stars.

That’s why Saturday was such a letdown for me. Was it poor play from Lionel and Cristiano that sent them home? Was it a sound defensive strategy from their opponents? Maybe you know the answer to that, but I have no idea. All I know is that those guys didn’t score or even touch the ball as much as I wanted them to.   

This was Lionel Messi’s fourth World Cup. I’ve heard that he has underachieved for his national team on this stage, and while six goals in four World Cup appearances isn’t great, I’ll admit, 14 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses, and 4 straight knockout stage appearances seems like a great run, right? Which brings us back to Saturday, where Messi […]

2018-07-02T23:42:59+00:00

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
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