Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why Americans Don't Like Soccer

The World Cup is going on right now and I’m one of about 28 people in the US that are trying to watch as much of it as humanly possible. My dad asked why I was interested in the World Cup and I told him, “The entire world can’t be wrong.” Make no mistake, the World Cup matters more to just about every other country in the rest of the world than any single sporting event matters here in the states. The shots of fans at the World Cup make the well traveled Steelers’ fans (of which my brother and I are 2) look like amateurs. And I believe I am right: the entire world isn’t wrong.

Firstly, I disagree with the premise that Americans don’t like soccer. I don’t think they know anything about it, but that’s not the same thing as not liking it. To be honest, here in the United States, we aren’t given a chance to really understand professional soccer. Finding an MLS game on TV is more difficult than locating the NHL playoffs (which finished before anyone actually knew they started). But before I expand on the lack of exposure soccer gets, let’s look at the game itself.

Participation isn’t a problem in the US. Considering girls get to play with the boys, I wouldn’t be surprised if soccer were the most participated organized youth sports program in the country. So fundamentally, most parents know the rules. Certainly any kid who has played knows the basics. And enough kids play, that you can’t claim you don’t like it because you don’t understand it. Even a person who has never played any sport at any level can pick it up in about 1 minute: kick the ball in the goal, you can’t use your hands, you can’t knock people over if you’re not actually making a play on the ball. Sure there are other rules (like offsides), but that right there is all you need to know to be able to follow the action.

The biggest argument you hear is that there’s no scoring so it’s kind of dull. My feeling is that the lack of scoring actually makes it more intriguing. When a team actually gets a good scoring chance while attacking the goal, it’s absolutely enthralling. To watch the players position themselves as the series of events unfold is fascinating. Granted, most of the time, these developments finish with no pay-off, goal wise, but they’re certainly interesting to watch. I would say during the course of a match, there are just as many scoring chances in soccer as football. Obviously, the big difference is, they score far more often in football. But I think the non-stop action of the soccer game more than makes up for the differential in actual scores.

Another big argument is that soccer players are wusses because they’re flopping all over the place. This is one I can understand. I have a problem with this one. However, in most cases, I can understand and almost forgive it. You have to realize that soccer players run non-stop for 2 45-minute periods. That’s an insane amount of running, So if a guy twists a knee a little bit, it’s understandable that he’s going to milk it for a minute. I suspect all of the players on the pitch are appreciative. The problem becomes when a guy flops after barely being touched, if at all. This is egregious and frowned upon, even in soccer. You’ll hear the commentators give the guy a bit of a tongue lashing. And in reality, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as you might think. It’s annoying when it does happen, but no more so than, say, Nomar’s antics at the plate or a Peyton Manning interview.

I think the real reason soccer isn’t big in the US is because of the afore mentioned lack of exposure. As a kid, you’re playing soccer and it’s reasonable to say that, given half a chance, you’d watch some on TV. If it ever came on. Which it doesn’t. It just doesn’t get put on the tube. And that’s because it’s a bad format for the corporate big wigs. It’s 45+ straight minutes of action without any possible chance of cutting to commercials. That’s not a viable format for the networks, therefore, they’re more than happy to prevent any sort of ground swell of interest from the populous. There is absolutely no economic benefit to broadcasters to have them try and sell soccer. And the fact is, now, it’s going to have to overcome football, baseball or the NBA in order to gain mainstream acceptance. There’s absolutely no way that would ever happen without increased exposure. 40 years ago, soccer could have easily beat out football or the NBA for popularity in the US. All it would have needed was a league. The league that did form was 5-10 years too late and ended up folding. The basketball and football leagues had already been around for decades. People already had a rooting interest. Then TV started expanding sports coverage. And BOOM, we have sports #1 and #3 in popularity in the US. ESPN, had it partnered with the now defunct soccer league might have been able to get soccer that #3 spot, but no dice. For a time, Australian Rule football was more popular in the US than soccer.

Now we are a top rate nation with a second rate soccer team. That should eventually be enough to enable us to catch up with the other nations in quality of play. Eventually. But for now, I’ll just keep on rooting against Brazil (the Yankees of international football) and for England (because I am an unapologetic Anglo-phile).

PS Had a 2nd i-view with the consulting group today. It went amazingly well. I think I’d be a very good fit. I’ll have 1, may 2, more interviews before any sort of offer. So before July 4th for a job does not look realistic, but, if things continue to go well, I don’t see a problem with before the end of July.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pick a Legacy

2 very different but equally interesting things have happened in the past 2 weeks in regard to the environment. The first, which has gotten a lot of press time, is George Bush designating something like 100 square miles of ocean around a bunch of uninhabitable atolls in the Hawaiian Islands as National Parks. This is a fantastic move and quite frankly rather surprising coming from a President who, until now, had been trying to make certain that his lasting environmental legacy would be 2 things he hasn't been capable to do yet: open up the Alaskan wilderness to oil drilling and acknowledge the very real problems global warming present. One of those 2 he's tried to do and the other he probably won't ever try. Let's face reality with the Pacific Atolls situation for a second: they provide absolutely no strategic benefit to any corporations or government interest. Making such a move, while extremely commendable, is as easy and uncontroversial as deciding to not run over a puppy that strays into the middle of the road.

The other development, and far less covered in the press, was the narrow victory of the environmental concern in the Supreme Court which re-affirmed that the Clean Water Act of the 1970’s does establish a separate government entity to define what is meant by a waterway and not the Supreme Court. The vote was 5 to 4 with only Justice Kennedy of the “Conservative Bloc” siding with the dwindling and weak “Intelligent Bloc”. The 4 uber-scary conservatives, led by Scalia and Thomas with Alito and Roberts dutifully in tow, insisted that, in spite of the fact that it’s not stated anywhere in the law, that a body of water must be connected to a navigable waterway in order to be considered a waterway. Lakes would qualify but not desert run offs, and so on. The interesting note here is that one of the Liberal Justices made a note in his opinion that it is the Supreme Court’s job to interpret and the Constitution and laws passed, not re-write them. Basically, in his opinion, he warned of CONSERVATIVE Judicial Activism. With the people that the Village Idiot has appointed to the court, that’s EXACTLY what we’re going to be seeing for the next 20 years.

My question is this: which environmental victory is more telling of the kind of legacy that the Village Idiot is going to be leaving behind. I’m saying it’s the Supreme Court case. Not because it was something Bush actually did. In fact, I’d bet a zillion dollars that he would have been dead set against the ruling because it means less land is open for development. Firstly, it’s a HUGE victory because MAYBE, one of the 5 Conservative Bloc actually has a working brain. But more importantly, we get a view of EXACTLY what those 4 uber-Idiots are going to be doing as Conservative Activists. The mind-less right can continue to spew it’s talking points on how Activist Judges are out to fag-atize the United States with gay marriage and actively kill babies by performing abortions in their court-rooms, but why is a conservative judge writing clauses into laws any less scary? The Supreme Court case is more important because it’s a nice environmental victory now but is a sign of the losses to come. The Village Idiot’s environmental legacy will be felt in Supreme Court for years to come.

JOB SEARCH SIDE NOTE: Royal Caribbean interviewed and hired people for the 2 open positions they had while I was on the road. I’m supremely annoyed that they didn’t even bother to call me to see if I could make it for the interviews. I had a 2nd phone i-view with Citrix cancelled because they weren’t sure who they wanted to actually speak with me. And today, I had my first face-to-face with the consulting group, Auxis. They’re small with a very local flavor. The interview went very well and they definitely moved up a notch or 2 in packing order.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Trip and Stuff

Before I get into the details of the trip, I'll give a very brief update on the job search. I have many phone calls to make and will re-start my internet search today or tomorrow. The phone calls have to wait until after lunch, hence my time now to blog. As far as teh Solid Possibility List, you can take Royal Caribbean off. They conducted interviews and distributed offers while I was on the road. I'm less than pleased. I was supposed to have a second Citrix phone interview today but the HR person and the person I was supposed to interview with got all crossed up so it will be rescheduled. Again, not pleased. So far, not so good.

As for the trip, it went as well as a 45 hour cross-country journey could possibly go. We made excellent time thanks in large part to Jennifers complete and total lack of fear for the Red and Blue flashing lights. Until she gets pulled over for the first time, she's going to be our official distance driver. Along the way, we stopped at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forrest National Park. The sights were something else. Unfortunately, we're pretty sure we didn't see any of teh petrified trees. We couldn't get close enough to confirm any suspitions, however, the painted desert was pretty enough to make the stop worth while.

We also stopped in New Orleans briefly. Jenn wasn't a big fan. It's still one of my favorite places to go as this visit was far too breif to either add or detract from my previous experiences. But I will say this: before noon in June, it sure is one stinky place. That's something I hadn't noticed on my previous visit.

Other than that, we pretty much drove straight through. Considering a big chunk of the trip was Texas and North Florida, you can't really blame us. My mom and I were hping that the timing would have been such that we could stay over night in the Disney area. But alas, a 1 hour delay in Pensacola thanks to bridge construction squashed any hopes of that.

We got Jenn cards from Arizon, New Mexico and New Orleans. She already had Texas cards and the roads through Alabama and Mississippi were far to brief to warrant making special stops in the hopes that they'd have playing cards.

I hope everyone is well and look forward to being able to post some happy job-hunt news soon!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Search

Below is a listing of my current job prospects. I’ve put them in order of which ones I’d like to land the most. I’ve only listed ones which I’ve actually spoken with someone for more than 30 minutes. Since nobody really knows what I do and very few probably care, I’ll spare you most of the boring details of the actual job. At least now, you’ll all know sort of where I am in the search.

1) Royal Caribbean – I’ve had a 45 minute pre-screen phone interview. When I went to Florida in May, I had had a series of interviews for a different group that lasted 6 hours. They ended up picking someone else, but the hiring manager liked me and said she’d try to help find me another role. The current position in question was one I found on line. She spoke to that hiring manager and I suspect that helped me get the phone interview. If I get any further in the process, I’d have to do another 6 hour round of interviews at some point. Originally, the person I interviewed with expressed some desire to have the face-to-face stuff done this week or the next, but when I spoke to her on Friday, she said she was still doing phone interviews this week and suggested I call back next Friday if I do not hear from her before then. This is my first choice because it’s Royal friggin’ Caribbean! How cool would that be!?!?! And I really enjoy my full day there in May. Unfortunately, I’m not feeling too good about my chances after the follow up call on Friday. Fingers are crossed.
2) Citrix Systems – I had an hour long phone interview yesterday. I’ll be following up from the road next week to find out what the schedule is for face-to-face interview. I think the phone interview went very well. This is second for 2 reasons. The first is that Citrix is a ginormous IT company which is highly respected. It would look really good on a resume years down the road. The other reason is because the role is very different. It’s a brand new role so I’d get a chance to mold some of my responsibilities and duties. I like that.
3) Bluegreen Corp. – My brother’s brother-in-law works for this time share company. He showed my resume to the director of IT and she liked it a lot. She wants to meet with me when I get to South Florida. There isn’t a specific role that I’m aware of which she is considering me for at this point. I would say that’s the main reason why this wouldn’t be #2. I think it’d be kind of cool to work for a time share company. Yeah, 2 out of the top 3 are vacation related companies. That’s not an accident.
4) Auxis – This is a consulting company. I’ve spoken to the recruiter a couple times. Each time he says that he definitely wants to set up interviews for me and asks for my availability. Each time he says he’s going to check the availability of the managers and get back to me. I still don’t have an actual interview set up yet. I’ve already done the consulting thing so this one doesn’t have the crisp new smell that the other ones have. And let’s be honest: when Royal Caribbean is first on your list, something like consulting just doesn’t seem all that interesting. However, it’s a job and it would show future employers that I can in fact do the consulting thing and the first 3 years weren’t a fluke. This is another nice resume builder.

There you have it. With any luck, by the time I arrive in Florida, I’ll have at least 3 of these guys scheduled for interviews (please let one be Royal Caribbean, please let one be Royal Caribbean….

Friday, June 02, 2006

To be read before your next blood pressure exam:

It's been a rough day for me today. They shut off our phone by accident (shouldn't have happened until June 12th) and they say they can't get us our DSL hook up until the 7th. They're working on getting it back up sooner, but I won't get word on that until later in the day. This is a big deal becasue I have a phone interview with Citrix on Monday and I have to prepare at some point on Sunday. Not much I can find out about Citrix without the internet. Well, from home, anyway. There's been other job search-related stuff, too. Some point early next week, I'll give a complete rundown of job search stuff.

But today, I just wanted to give everyone a link. If you remotely distrust our current Village Idiot (for those new to the blog, that would be Mr. President Bush) or worse yet have a loathing for him deep in the sub-cockals of your heart, this link is for you:

If you're indifferent about the Village Idiot but just like getting mad about stuff, then that link is definitely for you. If you LOVE conspiracy theories, especially ones that seem a little too coincidental to not be true, well, that link is for you as well. If you have a general distrust for our or any government, then you might want to click that link. If, on the other hand, you love Generalisimo Bush, you support the Constitutional amendment coming to vote soon which would ban gay marriage, you still think that if you're not with us then you're against us, or you belive Fox News to be the only source for unfiltered news, then, if you DON'T click that link, I will beat you over the head with my shoe becasue you need to wake the fuck up.

Any way, the article referenced by afformentioned and posted link is rather long but quite an interesting read. And since you won't hear about it through any normal channels, I figured it'd be worth while to direct everyone to it.