Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Presidential Rebuttals Throughout History

By Albert Brooks, Huffington Post, July 26, 2011)

I don't remember growing up seeing the president of the United States being rebutted each time he gave a speech. When did this become part of our democracy? Isn't the whole point of winning the office of president that you can talk to the nation without others talking after you, belittling what you say and giving their own point of view? I began to think of some the great presidential moments and what their rebuttals might have sounded like, had they been allowed at the time.

Franklin Roosevelt: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

John Nance, speaker of the House, giving his rebuttal: "The president has obviously not taken a walk around Washington for quite some time. With all the thugs and the crime and the poverty which he is not addressing, we now must fear every individual that approaches us on the street. Fear is the last thing I'm afraid of. I'm afraid of the president and his inability to act."

John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Sam Rayburn, speaker of the House, his rebuttal: "The president is afraid to ask his country to help him because he knows he has bankrupted the nation we live in and our great land can no longer take care of us. Countries are meant to help its citizens. To ask how you can help your country is putting unnecessary burden on yourself and your family. If President Kennedy would run a better ship that ship could take us anywhere."

Abraham Lincoln: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

Schuyler Colfax, speaker of the House, in his rebuttal: "Mr. President, the fact that you are even thinking about fooling people suggests your presidency is a sham. A true president does not want to fool anyone. He trusts his constituency and treats them with respect. He does not idle away the time wondering who he can fool. You should be ashamed."

Ronald Reagan: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Tip O'Neil, speaker of the House, from his speech following the president: "Is Ronald Reagan really asking the Soviets to do the work that the United States should have been doing for decades? That is the problem with this country. We have to ask our enemy to do the heavy lifting. Can we not tear down this wall ourselves? The America I grew up in certainly could have, and I would like to return us to that era. What are we going to ask the Soviets to do next, cook us our dinner?"


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bye Bye Borders: What The Chain's Closing Means For Bookstores, Authors And You

By Rachel Syme, NPR.org, July 19, 2011

The verdict has come in, and it is official: As of this week, the bookstore chain Borders is going for liquidation in bankruptcy court, which means that the company will dissolve, closing 399 stores and laying off approximately 10,700 workers in the process. After a last-ditch attempt to sell at auction (with no luck), the group announced its plans on Monday. Borders is no more.

In a way, the closing feels like an inevitable end. In February, Borders filed for bankruptcy and closed a third of its stores. Long before that cry for help, the company had already begun to founder, unable to keep up with its competitors in the aggressive e-book market and losing online business to web-savvier brands like Amazon and B&N. When the bankruptcy papers went through, Borders owed over $270 million to its creditors, including every major publishing house in the business. The end of the chain will come as a heavy blow to those houses, who will likely not recoup their financial losses; but for the everyday consumer, the chain closing feels like just another casualty in the long and drawn-out decline of the paper-book market at large.

But the fizzling of Borders brings with it severe consequences for the publishing industry — and the consumer. It has the feel of a "Too Big to Fail" situation, albeit in the smaller-stakes book world, in which the toppling of a giant will send ripples into several smaller pools, and as with the crashing of the financial markets, it's almost always the little guy who loses out. A better explanation: Borders going under means that hundreds of people beyond its own employees will lose jobs. Because it was one of the top booksellers in the country, publishing houses had entire departments dedicated to working with Borders and its sales teams. It also means that suddenly, publishers have lost a major thoroughfare for book sales, one of their biggest. An entire arm of book sales has been amputated.

Kathleen Schmidt, a book publicist, provided this perfectly concise explanation on Twitter: "Here is how the Borders closing will impact publishers: Say you have a bestselling author and you usually do a 1st printing of 100K books. Out of that 1st print of 100K, B&N/Amazon would take a large quantity, then Target, maybe Costco/BJs/Walmart, then Borders, then indies. If you're an author with a 1st print of 30K (a lot), you prob don't have price clubs or Target. You have B&N, Amazon, Borders, and indies. Now, take Borders OUT of that 1st print equation. Also consider that B&N is conservative with numbers these days. That 30K turns into 15K."

Granted, the reduced print runs for books don't mean that fewer books will sell, but Borders closing does have a huge effect on how many physical copies will be out in the world. It is yet another nail in the coffin of the old-fashioned brick and mortar, paper and gum book business as the world zooms toward an ever-more-digital model. So what Borders closing means, at the basic level, is that fewer paper books will be produced. There is no other outlet big or solid enough to absorb the blow; there is nowhere else for all those paperbacks and hardcovers to go. The most logical thing to do is to stop printing them.

This harsh reality can feel tragic to those who love the physicality of books and still haven't gotten used to the Kindle, but a new generation is learning to adapt to e-reading. I suspect that the children who are just learning to read today on iPads won't grow up nostalgic for the Borders that they never knew. I certainly don't feel wistful about no longer getting to snag CDs at Sam Goody. There is no other future for reading but a digital one, and getting misty about the decline of tangible books is an exercise in futility. Reading itself has never been more popular, even if formats are in flux.

That said, the aspect of Borders' implosion that troubles me is that there will be 399 fewer places to take part in the communal act of book buying, which is a completely separate activity from reading (see: regular bookstore lurkers who never purchase a thing). As corporate as it has become, Borders began as an independent bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1979. Tom and Louis Borders bought out the aging Wahr's store at 316 South State, and they hired a local rare books restorer to stock it lovingly with unique reading material. The restorer kept a binding workshop upstairs. It expanded into the impersonal, sprawling latte experience that we know today, but Borders started small, and it grew out of a love for the shared browsing experience.

Bookstores are very special places, even the behemoths. They provide a space for cultural dilettantism. You can get lost in them for hours, perusing covers and picking up obscure titles. They are dedicated to discovery and are curated by some of the most dedicated retail employees around (even to get hired at a large corporate chain, one is still required to exhibit a sharp passion for reading).

Small bookstores may be celebrating Borders' demise (Nora Ephron reference: the Shop Around the Corner finally has a shot against Fox Books!), but they also know that this is a sign that these are the hardest of times. Bookstores are fighting for their lives, day in and day out. Only the most relevant, vibrant, dynamic, essential, committed, nimble, involved and enticing independents will survive the e-book tsunami. Independents are prepared to be all of those things — far better than a giant organization like Borders was — but they need to bring a lot of ammunition.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Women's World Cup 2011 Articles

U.S. Beats Brazil In Shootout, Reaches World Cup Semifinals
(By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY, July 10 2011)

The final seconds of this marathon World Cup quarterfinal were ticking away — maybe 60 or so left. Crafty and dazzling one moment, emotional and unpredictable the next, Brazil led the U.S. team 2-1 in the second minute of stoppage time after 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime. For the Americans, who were playing 10 against 11 because of a red card given to defender Rachel Buehler in the 65th minute, their earliest World Cup exit seemed imminent. There just simply did not seem to be any way for the U.S. to win. There turned out to be two.

•Way No. 1 — A long cross from sub Megan Rapinoe to Abby Wambach, soccer's Queen of Midair, who headed it into the net in the 122nd minute. Wambach has been in the worst slump of her career, having scored one goal coming into the tournament and going scoreless despite several chances in the first two Cup games. Then she knocked one in off her shoulder in a 2-1 loss to Sweden on Wednesday. And now … she's not in a slump any more. This will go down as one of the most spectacular goals in women's soccer history.

"To be honest," Wambach said, "I can't believe what just happened. These last three hours have been some of the most up-and-down moments of my life." The pass from Rapinoe, according to Wambach, should also become legendary. "That was by far the best ball in the tournament," Wambach said of Rapinoe's cross. "That ball was world class. She put that ball right on my head. Luckily, I didn't miss it." Rapinoe had subbed in for Lauren Cheney in the 55th minute. She once again showed why she has been one of the most dynamic players in the tournament. "I don't think I've ever hit a ball like that with my left foot," Rapinoe said.

•Way No. 2 — A save by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo on Brazil's third kicker in the penalty-kick shootout — Daiane. Solo, four years ago, was benched in a Cup semifinal against Brazil and the Americans lost 4-0. After the match, she ripped coach Greg Ryan for the decision and veteran Briana Scurry for allowing goals she said she would have saved. Sunday, finally getting her World Cup start against Brazil, she was a hero. The first two shooters for Brazil, Cristiane and Marta, made their kicks. "I didn't really try to read them," Solo said. "I had in my head where I thought they'd go."

Then sweeper Daiane, who had spent the day mostly deep on defense, addressed the ball. Solo decided to try to read and react. She lunged to her right and got her right hand on the ball. The Americans made all their kicks, so Solo's save turned out to be the decider. "Amazing," said defender Christie Rampone, playing in her fourth World Cup. "Best goalkeeper in the world." U.S. coach Pia Sundhage helped heal relationships between Solo and her teammates when she was hired after the 2007 World Cup. She also has stuck with Wambach through the slump. Sundhage was deeply moved by what she saw Sunday. "I come from Sweden," she said. "This American attitude of putting everything together and bringing out the best in everybody is contagious. I am very proud to be the coach of this U.S. team."

The Americans' ability to compete with Marta, Cristiane and Co. despite being a player short was impressive. In fact, their play seemed to pick up when Buehler was sent off. Rampone organized a brilliant effort by the defenders, including a resurgent performance by left back Amy LePeilbet, and veteran Shannon Boxx was a rock in the midfield. "Marta is the best player in the world, hands down," Sundhage said. "She is phenomenal. However, this team is better than one player." Marta scored both Brazilian goals, one on a controversial penalty kick re-try in the 68th minute. The first penalty kick, by Cristiane, was saved by Solo, but Solo was ruled to have come off the line, giving Brazil a second chance. Marta's second goal came on a masterful, soft-touch shot in the second minute of overtime. As she has been in the previous matches in Germany, Marta was booed by German fans. "I don't know why," Brazilian coach Kleiton Lima said. "Probably because she is not German."

U.S. Stuns Brazil, Advances To Semifinal Of Women’s World Cup
(By Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, July 10, 2011)

The Women’s World Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Brazil on Sunday took enough twists and turns to fill an entire tournament. If an early own goal, a controversial ejection and a retaken penalty kick weren’t enough, there was a go-ahead strike in extra time by Marta, the Brazilian superstar, and a last-ditch equalizer by Abby Wambach, the Americans’ bruising forward. One last act of spellbinding theater awaited — and Hope Solo and Ali Krieger embraced the spotlight at Rudolf-Harbig Stadium. Solo made a diving save in the third round of a penalty kick tiebreaker and Krieger, a Dumfries native, capped a flawless performance by the Americans in the shootout by tucking her attempt into the lower left corner for a 5-3advantage and the win. That followed a 2-2 draw through 120 minutes of regulation and overtime.

The victory avenged a 4-0 loss to Brazil in the 2007 Women’s World Cup semifinals in China and came exactly 12 years after the United States prevailed in a tiebreaker against China to win the championship. With their latest triumph, the Americans advanced to face France, a first-time semifinalist, on Wednesday in Moenchengladbach. The other semifinal, scheduled for the same day in Frankfurt, pits Japan, which ousted two-time defending champion Germany on Saturday, against Sweden, a 3-1 winner over Australia earlier Sunday.

The Americans haven’t won the world title since 1999 and appeared in jeopardy of falling short again by finishing second in group play behind Sweden and falling behind previously unbeaten Brazil in the extra period. “I’m at a loss and I literally cannot believe what just happened,” Wambach said. “But we’ve got two games left. “The history of the team has always been we never give up,” she added. The Americans went ahead 74 seconds into the match on an own goal — the first blemish against Brazil in the 16-team tournament. Shannon Boxx crossed the ball to the six-yard box, where Brazilian defender Daiane deflected it into her own net. But midway through the second half, Brazil pulled even on a chaotic sequence. Australian referee Jacqui Melksham red-carded U.S. defender Rachel Buehler for taking down Marta in the box. That resulted in a penalty kick and left the Americans short-handed for the remainder of the match.

Solo stopped Cristiane’s attempt, but while the goalkeeper celebrated with teammates, Melksham ordered the kick taken again. At the time, it was assumed that Melksham ruled Solo had stepped forward before the ball was struck — a violation — but TV replays showed a U.S. player entering the penalty area too early. Marta took the second attempt and converted easily, tying the score at 1.

A five-time FIFA player of the year, Marta struck again two minutes into extra time, lifting the ball over Solo from a difficult angle. While the play was unfolding, Boxx turned for an instant to plead for an offside call. Marta gained just enough separation to connect with the cross and put Brazil ahead. “Sometimes we play better when we’re down,” Solo said. “We never like things easy.” For the rest of overtime, the Americans pressed valiantly, keeping the ball in Brazilian territory for much of the time. Three minutes of added time tacked to the end gave them their chance. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe crossed toward Wambach, who beat a defender and goalkeeper to the high ball and headed it into the net, inspiring thunderous cheers from the sold-out crowd of 25,598.

In the shootout, in which teams alternate attempts, Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Wambach converted for the United States and Cristiane and Marta scored for Brazil before Solo leapt fully extended to her right to block Daiane’s shot. After Rapinoe and Francielle exchanged goals, Krieger clinched the victory. “I just blocked everything out and focused on making the shot,” said Krieger, 26, who starred in the Prince William youth programs and at Forest Park High before playing at Penn State. She has spent most of her professional career in Germany. “There’s something about the American attitude” that kept the team going even when the match appeared lost, U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage said. “Right now, I’m the happiest person on Earth.”

U.S. Vs. Brazil: This One Should Have Left You Cheering
(By Mike Lopresti, Gannett, USA Today, July 11, 2011)

Let's say you're one of those who wouldn't jump on soccer's bandwagon with a bazooka to your head. This one still should have moved you. Let's say you think any sport where the referee reaches in the pocket and pulls out a little red or yellow card is silly. And you can't understand why they put up extra time at the end of each half, but won't tell anyone exactly how much. And you couldn't describe the offsides rule if they offered you a bank truck. And there's still the same old problem of not enough scoring. This one still should have left you cheering. Who cared Sunday what the sport was? Remarkable is remarkable, epic is epic.

Great sport is about beating the odds and beating the pressure and beating the clock — then being speechless when it is over, so deep is the emotion. Doesn't matter if it is done with a bat or a glove or a stick or a hand or a foot. So here is the women's U.S. soccer team, turning back Brazil on Sunday in the World Cup quarterfinals on penalty kicks, with the type of drama that can wow a country. Even that part of the country preoccupied with when the lockout might end — either of them. Whoever's writing this team's script deserves a raise.

Take the goalie known for her individualism, named Solo. You couldn't make that up. More pertinent, when the Brazilians absolutely, positively had to get a ball past her, they couldn't. Or the veteran Abby Wambach, who scored in the final seconds of overtime Sunday to save the day and force the penalty kicks. This was burying a three-pointer over LeBron James at the buzzer, homering on a 0-2 pitch in the ninth inning off one of Mariano Rivera's best cutters, throwing a Hail Mary pass for a touchdown on the final play against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Plus, nothing makes a victory more telegenic than when it comes after a team has been sucker-punched by luck. This band of Uncle Samettes endured iffy calls and having to play shorthanded for more than 50 minutes. It was as if Brazil was in a perpetual power play. So the Americans tied the game on their last gasp, and then won the penalty-kick shootout, which is like two goalies having to stand there trading punches, as if they were Ali and Frazier, until one of them finally falls down. Hope Solo was the one left standing. Many on these shores are not fully on board with the Women's World Cup, but maybe we can put it in another more appealing way.

This was as close as you can get to an Olympic moment without a flame or flying doves. And we eat up Olympic moments like they were hamburgers. You know how it has been watching sports lately. One American retreat after another. Turn on golf, and Europeans are making most of the big birdies. Turn on tennis, and its Spain or Serbia or Russia or Switzerland. Turn on the NBA, and the pride of German basketball is holding up the trophy. Turn on baseball, and it's Latin America's pastime. We still rule in the hot dog eating contest, but not much else. Pro football, certainly, but they're not even playing.

So here's to the women who gave their country a scintillating Sunday, something rare lately. And now they want to finish the job. In truth, the Americans don't even have the best storyline going among the final four teams. That would be Japan, as a soccer team tries to help heal a nation shattered by a tsunami. But when it is time to meet France in Wednesday's semifinals, the Americans go in as fighters who have already cheated death. We make movies about people like that.

Sweden advances to semis
(Associated Press)

In Augsburg, Lotta Schelin scored one goal and set up another as Sweden beat Australia, 3-1, to reach the semifinals. After setting up Therese Sjogran for the opening goal in the 11th minute, Schelin pushed the lead to 3-1 in the 52nd to set off the players’ traditional Swedish dancing celebrations. Schelin capitalized on a poor back pass from Kim Carroll and took one touch past goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri before slotting the ball into the unguarded net. Sjogran set up Lisa Dahlkvist for Sweden’s second goal in the 16th in front of 24,605 fans, before Ellyse Perry briefly gave Australia hope with a stunning effort in the 40th.

“There is a fantastic atmosphere in our team and we pulled each other through,” said Schelin, the player of the game. The result means Sweden also qualifies for the London Olympics next year. Japan upset host Germany in another quarterfinal and will play Sweden on Wednesday.

U.S. Rises Above Fatigue, Beats France To Reach Women's World Cup Final
(Sporting News website, July 13, 2011)

The Americans have plenty of heart and just enough legs. The U.S., the oldest team in the Women's World Cup and playing on short rest against a younger and fresher team, were outplayed by France for most of the game before rallying with two goals in the final 11 minutes for a 3-1 victory in Wednesday's semifinals. "This is just such an awesome feeling," Lauren Cheney told ESPN. "We overcame so much adversity." Abby Wambach, a 31-year-old forward with weary legs, rose up one more time to score the go-ahead goal on a header in the 79th minute. Wambach, who famously tied the quarterfinal match against Brazil in extra time on a header, did it again, this time on a corner kick from Cheney. "Abby, she's just the best," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "I'm very happy to have her in our team. Great."

Three minutes later, the U.S. put away the game. Forward Alex Morgan, fresh-faced and fresh-legged at the age of 22, came into the game in the 56th minute. She cleaned up a turnover and beat goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz. The U.S. had made the semifinal in all six Women's World Cups, but this is the Americans' first Cup final since winning the tournament in 1999. The U.S. will play the winner of the Japan-Sweden semifinal on Sunday. The Americans entered the tournament as the No. 1-ranked team in the world, having won the Olympic gold medal in the Beijing, but hadn't played well in recent years and weren't expected to win the World Cup. The U.S. had to win a playoff vs. Italy just to qualify for the 16-team World Cup tournament. Two-time World Cup defending champion Germany and Brazil, with five-time FIFA player of the year Marta, were co-favorites. Having survived a "bumpy road" in group play, as Sundhage calls it, the Americans won a drama-filled game vs. Brazil and Japan upset Germany. That left the U.S. as the overwhelming favorite once in the semifinals. Anything short of a victory in Sunday's final will be considered a disappointment for the Americans, trying to become the first team to win three World Cup titles.

The Americans got on the scoreboard quickly vs. France. In the ninth minute, on a counter attack, Carli Lloyd fed Heather O'Reilly on the left flank, running with defenders. O'Reilly is always dangers and she took the ball into the box and made a crossing pass. There, Cheney, the Americans' best player in this tournament, deflected the pass into the right corner of the net. France had control of the ball much of the match, missing scoring chance after chance, and finally converted in the 55th minute. Sonia Bompastor played a long crossing ball from the left side toward the right side of the goal. With a French player running toward the near post, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo moved forward to play a probable deflection. The French player never touched the ball and Bompastor's blast went in to tie the match.

At that point, the French seemed destined to pull off the upset and advance to its first World Cup final. Unpredictably, the American defense stiffened, the midfield started controlling the ball and the team beat France on the counter-attack. And with a late rush, the U.S. is now just 90 minutes away from its first World Cup title since 1999. “There’s something special about this team, and I do believe that this is the team to do it. We want to write our own storyline, and we want to write our own destiny,” Solo said. "To be honest, we’re tired of hearing about 1999. It’s time for a new team to come in here and make history.”


This Time Around, Goalkeeper's Not Going Solo
(By Lisa Olson, AOL FanHouse, July 13, 2011)

Debating the hotness of Hope Solo — drooling over her hotness is a truer description — seemed a perfectly reasonable followup theme to the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s stunning, jaw-on-the-floor defeat of Brazil last Sunday. The discourse was predictable: the host slobbered a few words, someone else grunted in agreement, another brought up Brandi Chastain’s bra and everyone chuckled and scratched. Yep, here was sports talk radio stuck in a highbrow moment. Save the breath and stop the eye rolls, because there’s no use wasting time chastising those who still can’t see beyond the superficial when it comes to women’s sports. While the riveting commentary cited above took place on one of New York’s finer stations, no doubt the banality was replicated in pockets across the land. If a conversational jumping-in point is needed, may I humbly suggest this: Hope, the peripatetic goalkeeper who today guides the U.S. side in a World Cup semifinal against France, might just be the most fascinating athlete America has at the moment.

She ended an interview Tuesday with Dave "Softy" Mahler from Seattle’s KJR by saying, "Alright, we'll be bringing home the Cup, guys,” a fresh reminder that the aptly-named Hope always fearlessly shares what’s on her mind. The defining picture at this juncture of the tournament is of Solo and teammate Abby Wambach leaping into each other’s arms on a pitch in Germany after a dazzling spin of events turned what appeared destined to be an American loss into a spectacular win even soccer haters had to admire. Trailing 2-1, down a player and deep in extra stoppage time, there came Megan Rapinoe's sublime cross — “I just took a touch and friggin’ smacked it with my left foot,” she’d say later — the ball finding Wambach at the far post, and there went Wambach's perfect header, tying the match 2-2 in the 122nd minute. “I got it to the back post and that beast in the air just got a hold of it,” Rapinoe would also say, reminding us yet again that soccer players often use the most colorful descriptions to describe their beautiful game.

Solo followed Wambach’s implausible, never-to-be-imitated goal with a flawless performance in the shootout, and soon they were hugging tight, Wambach momentarily forgetting the screeching inflammation in her Achilles tendon, Solo ignoring the pain in her shoulder that’s still healing from surgery to repair a torn labrum.
From that delirious snapshot grew a rousing sentiment that made the rest of the world cringe. The rally proved that the Americans, according to Americans, were a scrappy, gutsy lot who didn’t know the meaning of quit. “Somebody’s writing this book, and it’s something about the American attitude that they find a way to win. It’s unbelievable,” said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, who hails from Sweden. “That is a perfect example of what this country is about, what the history of this team has always been. We never give up,” said Wambach, who hails from upstate New York. “A tribute to the American spirit,” said a TV announcer, and while most any other time that cliché would provoke involuntary gags, this time it happened to be true.

Twice the Yanks have won the women’s World Cup, in 1991 and 1999, but it’s been more than a decade since they’ve truly captivated the country. It took a ball slamming off Wambach’s forehead for slobbering radio hosts to raise their heads. Though Germany won the past two World Cups, the Yanks were still a favorite heading into this tournament, but that theme has flipped, and now it’s the Yanks who are viewed as slight longshots. It’s very rare — almost never — for Americans to be considered the underdog in anything, so pardon us if we run around flexing from now until whenever our girls end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. That could come as soon as today at Borussia-Park in Moenchengladbach, Germany.

France has never progressed this far, and they’ve beaten the Americans just once in 13 international matches, but they are riding high after running England into the turf in a quarterfinal match that also included a stirring comeback and then a win on penalty kicks. More than anything, Les Bleus has on its side an enviable edge, as a large core of its players come from the same club, Olympique Lyonnais, which is only the most dominant team in France. The Americans, alas, must make do despite hailing from disparate soccer clubs, colleges and developmental programs. France’s cohesiveness is apparent in its elegant possession game, and with the U.S. playing on short rest and without the suspended Rachel Buehler, Les Bleus is a creeping favorite. "We have a bit of an advantage over the United States because we're already familiar with this venue. The extra recuperation time has been kind to us — they've yet to invent a machine that does a better job of helping players recover than simply sleeping and resting,” French coach Bruno Bini told FIFA.com.

Solo gets this American true grit theme. She latched onto it after the Brazilians were sent packing, saying: “This is what it’s all about. It’s about defying the odds for me. It’s about proving people wrong. It’s about playing the game I’m passionate about. This is what I live for. I’ve prepared my entire life for this moment.” And then, days later in the radio interview, she admitted to riding the energy generated from her irritation over the Brazilians’ shameless stall tactics and outrageous gamesmanship, never mind the curious eyesight of the officials. “I found myself extremely overwhelmed with anger towards the ref, towards the Brazilians, the players, their antics, and their unsportsmanship,” she told KJR. “I found myself just incredibly angered, but I knew there was still a way to win this, so I did everything I could to manage my emotions, to stay focused, to stay in the zone, and that's what I was able to do."

The passion that drives her, that compels her to offer uncensored honesty, is the same unfiltered feed that led to her controversial benching against Brazil in the 2007 World Cup. Weeks before the tournament began, her father, Jeffrey, died of heart failure at age 69. A Vietnam veteran, he’s often described as being “homeless” in his adult years after splitting with Solo’s mother when she was 6. It’s a characterization that causes Solo to grimace. Even though Jeffrey chose to live in the woods outside of Seattle, or sometimes on the city streets, the father-daughter bond was firm. He was her first coach and later, when she played for the University of Washington, he’d be there for every single game, often arriving four hours early just to watch her warm up.

"I always had a very unique, close relationship with my father," Solo once told USA Today. "He was the happiest man I've ever known. He enjoyed the simple life. He never judged another person. His heart was pure. He'd call me from a pay phone, and we'd pick a place to meet. And I'd make him macaroni and cheese, and we'd sit in the woods in a tent and talk for hours. He understood life and sports, and that's why he knew me so well. "He was a tough Italian guy who was raised in a boys home in the Bronx. He always had that street sense in him. In terms of being ‘homeless,’ I’m always very careful not to define it that way. He chose to live in the woods. He enjoyed it. I'd offer him money, and he'd never take a dime. If I looked for him, I wouldn't look for him at a homeless shelter."

Solo is a tomboy who embraces her girly moments. When she wasn’t playing sports as a kid, she’d be out catching snakes and frogs along the Yakima and Columbia riverbeds; weeks away from turning 30, she’s long been obsessed with pedicures and now owns more pairs of shoes than she can count. It was her quick feet that caused her to move from forward to goalkeeper at age 15, to fill in temporarily for an injured teammate on her select soccer team. For years she despised playing goal. She missed the glamour and freewheeling adrenaline rush that came from being a high-scoring forward, but then came an epiphany when Amy Griffin, a Huskies assistant who used to be a former World Cup goalkeeper, installed a screen saver on Solo's computer.

"A goalkeeper can not win a game, she can only save it,” it read. The game, Solo learned, could be magical if only she’d allow it to come to her. By 2007 she was considered one of the world’s top goalkeepers, but her father’s death hit hard, and after giving up two goals in four games, Solo was benched by coach Greg Ryan for the semifinal against Brazil. When the U.S. lost, 4-0, with Briana Scurry in goal, Solo famously declared that she “would have made those saves” and brutally questioned the coaching decision. They were harsh, rude words coming from a raw place. They also were words that might have been acceptable had they been uttered by a male athlete irate at losing his spot, but from a female? Solo’s tirade rocked the premise of how female athletes were meant to act: graciously, perhaps even submissively. Banished from the match for third place and ostracized by many of the same women who had risen with her through club and then international play, Solo took a step back, made amends, allowed her psyche to heal and, most of all, worked her rear off. She was in goal when the U.S. beat Brazil, 1-0, in the gold medal game at the 2008 Olympics, and while she admitted some of her teammates were still distant, three years later everything seems copacetic.

Will France’s fresher legs and formidable union wreck this compelling American tale? Or must we again fall back on Brandi’s bra (oh, how Brandi must hate that bra) as the defining picture from a women’s World Cup? “There’s something special about this team, and I do believe that this is the team to do it. We want to write our own storyline, and we want to write our own destiny,” Solo said. "To be honest, we’re tired of hearing about 1999. It’s time for a new team to come in here and make history.”

Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/soccer/story/2011-07-12/this-time-around-goalkeepers-not-going-solo-hope-solo-womens-world-cup-france#ixzz1S1jWfQ1Z

Japan Seizes The World Cup As USA Watches Title Slip From Grip
(By David Leon Moore, USA Today, July 17, 2011)

Some of the players on the amazingly resilient U.S. women's soccer team had started to believe, especially after the miracle against Brazil a week earlier, that they were a team of destiny. But what if there are two teams of destiny? Maybe that's what happened Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 48,817 in the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup.

It ended 1-1 after regulation, then 2-2 after overtime, then came down to a penalty-kick shootout, as did the Americans' quarterfinal victory against Brazil, which the U.S. team won to become an overnight sensation back home. This time, the shootout went awry for the Americans, and the Japanese won 3-1. It was a result that, for the U.S. team, was painful. It was an ending — the Americans coughed up a 1-0 lead with nine minutes left in regulation, a 2-1 lead with three minutes left in overtime — that was excruciating. "I guess it's never over 'til it's over, and we know that more than anybody," U.S. defender Rachel Buehler said.

As disappointed as the U.S. players were, they felt that in some ways the result was quite fitting, given the nightmare the Japanese have lived through since the deadly earthquake and tsunami that struck in March. "Maybe their country needed them to win more than our country needed us to win," U.S. star forward Abby Wambach said. Midfielder Carli Lloyd, one of three U.S. players unable to make a penalty kick in the shootout, agreed with Wambach. "Deep down inside, I thought it was our destiny to win it," Lloyd said. "But maybe it was Japan's."

The Americans were vying to win the Women's World Cup for the third time, but the first since the legendary Mia Hamm-led 1999 team won in front of a 90,000-plus crowd at the Rose Bowl. Instead, Japan, which never had been to a World Cup or Olympic final and never had beaten the U.S. women — they were 0-22-3, having been outscored 77-13 — is the 2011 World Cup champ. If that seems shocking, it's just another indication that women's soccer has developed from just a handful of teams capable of winning a title in, say, 1999, to maybe a dozen legitimate contenders in 2011. "Teams are catching up to us," U.S. defender Ali Krieger said. "We can see that."

Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori, who made saves on penalty kicks by Shannon Boxx and Tobin Heath in the shootout, was named player of the match. "We have some very good players on the team and this is why we have been able to win the final," Kaihori said. "I received excellent support from the other players and I want to emphasize this is a team effort. In the penalty shootout, I just had to believe in myself and I was very confident." In the end, the bumpy road the Americans have been on since shockingly losing to Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in November finally caught up to them. So did their inability to consistently take advantage of scoring opportunities, a recurring theme during the tournament. The Americans outshot Japan 12-5 in the first half, including one by Wambach that hit the crossbar.

After Alex Morgan scored in the 69th minute to break a scoreless tie, the U.S. defense allowed an equalizer in the 81st minute. Buehler cleared a loose ball in front of the goal but Krieger punched it right back in front of the goal, and Japan's Aya Miyama sent it past goalkeeper Hope Solo, who had no chance to react to the play. "I wasn't expecting what happened," Krieger said. "I just got caught off guard." In overtime, Wambach gave the Americans a 2-1 lead in the 104th minute, heading in a pretty cross from Morgan. Morgan, 22, of Diamond Bar, Calif., is the youngest player on the U.S. team, and her stellar second half, along with her goal in the second half of the semifinal against France, was one indication that the U.S. team's future is promising. "This was a great experience for her," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said of Morgan. "She has done well coming off the bench. She has a lot of goals in her and a lot of good games in her."

It was still 2-1 with three minutes left in overtime. "I remember seeing the clock with five minutes to go and thinking, 'We can do this,'" Lloyd said. But Japanese star midfielder Homare Sawa, a five-time World Cup player, scored on a deft touch off a corner kick in the 117th minute. It was her fifth goal of the tournament, which led all scorers and was one more than Wambach and Brazil's Marta. "That was just an example of Japanese precision on their set pieces," Buehler said. "She got a foot on it. I had my foot right there, too." "A remarkable player," Solo said of Sawa, Japan's 32-year-old captain.

The late scores by Japan were uncharacteristic of earlier U.S. matches. The Americans had been the team coming back, scoring late, making the clutch plays down the stretch. "It's tough because we were just minutes away," Wambach said. "When you're just minutes away, you're defending for your life, and that gives the other team chances." It was as though the USA, which had been the aggressor, went into a sort-of prevent defense, and it backfired. "It started with our attack, giving the ball away too easy," Sundhage said. "And we just weren't sharp enough with our defense on the two goals. That's why we didn't win the game." In the shootout, Boxx went first and her shot to the right was saved by Kaihori.

After Japan made its first kick, Lloyd sent hers high over the crossbar. Solo saved Japan's second attempt, but then Heath's kick resulted in another save by Kaihori. Three consecutive misses was too big a hole from which to crawl out. When Japan's Saki Kumagai knocked her shot past Solo, that clinched it, and the Japanese players swarmed the field in celebration. "We had been in penalty kicks previously against Brazil, and we had a good feeling tonight going into the penalty kicks," Sundhage said. "But that just proves what a small difference there is between a really good penalty kick and a not-so-good one." Wambach: ‘We’ll move on’

Wambach, 31, had said before the tournament that she considered her long and glorious career — she's an Olympic gold medalist and the third-leading goal scorer in U.S. women's soccer history — incomplete without a World Cup championship. She will have to wait and see if she can return to the World Cup at age 35. "I'm not thinking about that right now," Wambach said. "I just want to spend some time with my teammates. "This has been an emotional roller coaster. We'll go back play on our respective teams in our league (Women's Professional Soccer). And the Olympics are around the corner. We'll move on. "I feel devastated, but I feel proud of my teammates. And I give Japan credit. They just never gave up. And Sawa — what a performer."

The loss put a downer of an ending to a U.S. run to the final that had captivated Americans in a similar fashion to the 1999 tournament. Somewhere along the way, probably in the Brazil game, this team successfully moved out of the shadow of the so-called '99ers and created a compelling and separate identity. Before the match Sunday, President Obama, consumed with the debt crisis, tweeted his support: "Sorry I can't be there to see you play, but I'll be cheering you on from here. Let's go. —BO" The president did assign an official delegation to the title match, led by Vice President Biden's wife, Jill, and including former first daughter Chelsea Clinton.

Clinton's mother, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, also became a fan. "I am so proud of the U.S. women," Clinton told news reporters in Greece. They were proud of each other, too. When it was over, Lauren Cheney, who played three positions in this tournament and shined at all of them, limped away from the locker room on crutches. She had rolled her right ankle in the first minute, yet played in pain the rest of the half and wanted to take the field in the second half, too, but was replaced by Morgan. "It wasn't a great feeling watching it slip away," Cheney said. "Our team fought so much. I'm so proud of them. We've beaten so many odds. "I love this team so much."

World Cup Final: Both Teams Deserve Respect After Enthralling Game
(By Sally Jenkins, Washington Post, July 17, 2011)

For absence of all reasonable behavior, for fits, spasms, shouts and other involuntary reflexes, have you ever experienced anything like the Women’s World Cup? If we at home were insensible and raw-throated after all the “GOALS!” and the “OH NOOOOOOS!” can you imagine how the participants felt? It was past 11 p.m. in Germany, and Japan and the United States were dirty, limping and panting with exhaustion. But underneath all the grime, players from both teams were covered with something else, too. Call it honor.

By then speechlessness had set in — but what was there to say? Nothing, except a bewildered congratulations to Japan and thanks to both teams for such an unanticipated, enthralling spectacle — and thank God we don’t have to go through this again until 2015. The only people who are entitled to feel bad about the United States’ enervating loss in the World Cup final on a penalty shootout after extra time are the handful of American players who thought the trophy was in their grasp so many times over the course of the game, only to have it wrenched away by — what? An unforgiving crossbar, for one thing. But for another, a Japanese team playing for more than itself, that trailed twice but wouldn’t leave the field without answering, and at last won thanks to their diving goalie Ayumi Kaihori , whose flailing shin blocked Shannon Boxx’s first penalty-kick attempt and put the United States behind for the first time all game. “They never gave up,” Abby Wambach said simply.

Let’s get this straight: The World Cup has no magical powers than can make a tsunami and a nuclear meltdown un-happen. But it can console, and uplift and send a message home about fighting back, and you’d be one ugly American to begrudge them this victory. You’d be ugly, too, to criticize the American team unduly for the loss after such a memorable run. The penalty-kick phase was inglorious — Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath each missed on successive attempts, no doubt affected by the pressure of the moment. But I’d defy any viewer or critic to hold up under the same circumstances, given the way Japan had seized the momentum with its overtime comeback. The Americans suffered from an invisible drag all game long, even though they dominated for long stretches, and twice led, including that 2-1 margin that came off Wambach’s header in the 104th minute. Though they ran themselves into the dirt mounting huge offensive surges, they were never properly rewarded on the scoreboard.

They had dozens of scoring chances — the United States could easily have led 4-0 in the first half. But balls bounced wide. They ticked off the post or the crossbar. Some went awry out of haste, or wrong decisions, or over-anxiousness. But in some cases they were just purely unlucky — Wambach missed one left-footed strike in the first half by a fraction of an inch. There was no understanding why shots simply wouldn’t go in the net. “You can’t,” Coach Pia Sundhage said. You got the feeling it just wasn’t their day — and you got the feeling that they had that feeling, too.

Overall, they did far more right than wrong in the tournament, both on and off the field, and they deserved applause. With their stirring comeback against Brazil, they engaged a U.S. audience that had largely ignored them. They had every right to reproach us for not paying attention to them between Olympics and World Cups, but they were gracious enough not to. One of the traits of this program over the last dozen years has been how uncomplaining the players are; they are never surly no matter how poorly paid or ignored they are compared with men’s soccer. Instead they just put their heads down and run as hard as they can. Though relative have-nots in a sports world full of entitlements, whose job futures in Women’s Professional Soccer are by no means assured, they don’t carp about their disadvantages; rather, they just keep trying to build a future. For that alone they command the deep respect.

“We’re pro athletes, something not many women have the privilege to experience,” Wambach said earlier in the week. “In order for me, in my life, to continue doing something so amazing, this job, it’s almost a duty to give these [younger] girls a platform to inspire themselves. . . .It’s almost a pay-it-forward system at this point. Some people call it a burden, but I don’t call it a burden. It’s a responsibility and it’s something I and my teammates take very seriously.”

Instead of whining about lack of coverage, they seized the previously apathetic nation’s attention with their heart and theatrics, and held it. All of a sudden, their locker room was full of reporters newly arrived from the States. Solo’s followers on Twitter increased from 10,000 to more than 130,000. Tweets of encouragement came from Lil Wayne, Tom Hanks, Wanda Sykes, and countless fellow athletes such as Aaron Rodgers, not to mention various Obamas, Bidens and Clintons. A handsome U.S. Army captain stationed in Afghanistan decided to quit shaving his upper lip until the U.S. women won, and made a YouTube video in which he invited Solo to the Austrian Officer’s ball, promising to shave first. Even some hard-bitten male sportswriters were entranced. ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” tweeted about them, and Peter King, football writer for Sports Illustrated, called for a Wambach cover — probably jinxing her. It must have been hard to keep their heads on straight, but they did, and for that they deserved credit too, and so did Sundhage, that amateur folkie singer whose relaxed slouch and odd quirks couldn’t obscure her expert, sure-handed management.

In the midst of it all, the American players seemed to understand just how hard it would be to bring the Cup home. After their electrifying come-from-behind victory over Brazil in a penalty shootout, it was tempting to celebrate prematurely. “You know, it’s great, but let’s review,” Wambach said. “ We won a game — we won nothing.” They didn’t underestimate the team they would be facing in Japan. Goalie Solo put it best. “They are the sentimental favorites of this tournament, and it’s pretty clear to us they’re playing for something bigger and better than the game. When you are playing with so much emotion and heart, that’s hard to play against.”


Women’s World Cup: Everyone Gets A Trophy
(By Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, July 18, 2011)

Before I get to the substantive discussion of the soccer game yesterday — what we’re all really buzzing about, still — a quick note on the debt limit debate. As you know, I’ve been on vacation, and have assiduously avoided reading too much about the debt negotiations. Nonetheless, it is a fact that when in Utah the TVs at the motels are always tuned to Fox News and one is constantly hearing about how the President has wrecked the economy and driven the nation into debt and so on. This led me to random outbursts on remote wilderness trails, hectoring cacti and petroglyphs, ranting at rocks, and excoriating random geological formations for the illogic of the world. The president does not spend money! Congress does that! The vote on the debt limit does not involve more spending, but is merely a vote to ensure that the nation does not default on debt already owed. So I told the rocks, etc. They stared at me mutely. I think they felt sorry for me. The Washington guy — can’t let it go, even out here in nature.

So, Women’s World Cup: A disappointing end but what a run. We got our money’s worth. That was Can’t Pee TV — riveting and almost unendurably intense. It’s still not entirely clear how the U.S. lost in the end — how could we lose with superheader Abby Wambach and that goalie, Hope Solo, with the wingspan of a condor? But it was obvious how Japan won it: By not giving up, by having great reserves of want-to and pluck. You have to feel good for our Japanese friends after all they’ve been through this year.

And this was no fluke victory, even though the U.S. looked to be the stronger team. Yeah, we had a lot more shots on goal, but in soccer close doesn’t count. You don’t get half a point for whanging the ball off the crossbar. Note that, in the final few minutes of the second period of extra time, with the U.S. clinging to a 1-goal advantage, Japan had several great chances to tie as our defense suddenly went wobbly. The equilizer was nicely executed on a corner kick. Did we lose focus whenever we were up a goal? Did we succumb to pressure in the PKs? Whatever: From the comfort of our living rooms it’s easy to second guess. The U.S. women’s team performed with class and dash for the last month. What a bummer that the tournament is over. Are we supposed to watch baseball now? Swing and a miss. [Yawn.]


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

White Stripes Are Dead, Long Live White Stripes

(By Steve Kandell, Spin.com, Feb 8, 2011)

Here's the main reason you shouldn't spend too much time mourning the demise of the White Stripes: They were already gone. If last week's official announcement was jarring for any reason, it wasn't because the news itself was surprising, like some sort of bottom had just dropped out, but because we hadn't heard the name or really thought much about the White Stripes in years. This is hardly a reflection on the band's legacy -- if anything, the graceful early exit cements their greatness. But even beyond Jack and Meg White ceasing some time ago to be an active, prolific musical entity, they stopped being the White Stripes, as defined by a singular vision unlike that of any band in contemporary music, long before that. The White Stripes' final, it would now seem, studio album was 2007's Icky Thump, the first since White formed the Raconteurs as a brush with which to scratch those spots the Stripes' devout minimalism couldn't reach. That was followed by a few shows, then subsequent tour plans were scrapped due to Meg's "anxiety." (In quotes because that was the official explanation, not because we are in any way calling out the fuzziness of the term. Although that's what we just wound up doing anyway.)

Then, back to the Raconteurs and two Dead Weather albums, with stops in between to build a studio, start a label, raise a family, and rescue a few of his heroes' languishing careers, all with increasing autonomy, broadening the Stripes' orthodoxy concerning sartorial and genealogical matters to include a combative anti-modernity streak. With each of these moves, the White Stripes as we came to know them faded further into the ether. The message with the Raconteurs, and later the Dead Weather, was that there was no message. Jack was just one of the boys in the band, come as you are. And even during the truncated Icky Thump return, the familiar white and red gave way almost entirely to more black-and-white gaucho drag. Yes, we're talking about art direction and not music, but what were the White Stripes if not an exercise in art direction? De Stijl, anyone?

Once the dress code was relaxed, literally and figuratively, and audiences became more accustomed to seeing White play with an array of musicians who could keep up with him, his devotion to and defense of Meg's…let's say, "limitations," felt more and more like an exercise, albeit a great one. (Icky Thump may not be anyone's favorite Stripes album, but which of White's subsequent releases has been as consistently gratifying?) The album was warmly received, but White was put in the odd position of having to justify the band's existence and explain what Meg provided that his other collaborators couldn't. That was new. What the announcement ultimately boiled down to was mainly this: Jack White would no longer be playing in one of his three primary bands, but it only stands to reason that he'd wind up in some other one pretty soon anyway. This is both a testament to what he has built for himself over the past decade, but also a fairly shocking reminder that one of the most innovative & arresting musical acts in recent history had become just another line item on an ever-lengthening CV.

Certainly there are complex reasons for the band's dissolution that may never come to light -- they are, after all, ex-spouses each with new families, as if creative and business partnerships weren't tricky enough -- and a tempered joint statement on an otherwise slow news day is a more preferable exit strategy than a lot of the other options available to a semi-dormant band in its second decade. They are frozen in amber, quit before they got fired. The fact that there was some expectation that White would return to the Stripes once or twice every Olympiad seems like the part he'd find most constricting. Take away that burden and he's free again. And if we were to learn in a year's time that a new White Stripes album was forthcoming, we'd all be thrilled and surprised. But once the news sank in for a minute, we wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. You gonna believe a guy who lied about his own sister?