Your Thoughts Exactly: February 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007



Let’s say in a fantasy world, I was in some situation where a company gave me a check every two weeks, which was directly deposited into my bank account. Let’s also say that said company also gave me a certain amount of days per year where I was paid yet did not have to show up at work. They would call this “vacation.” If I was in this outrageous situation, I would take a week off and head to Jamaica for the world’s second greatest international sporting event, the Cricket World Cup.

This event getting no play in the United States because our team sucks, even though almost half the world’s population has a deep rooting interest in one team or another. The games won’t even be shown on any cable channel; you are going to have to spring for a dish package. Anyways I am here to give you a quick intro.

THE FORMAT: 16 teams make the World Cup, split into 4 groups of 4 in the first round. Of these teams, 6 (Kenya, Canada, Bermuda, Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands) are what are called “minnows.” They do not have ICC test status, (meaning they participate in the multi-year rotation of Tests,) because their teams aren’t good enough. They have no chance of winning. The top two teams from each group go into the next round, the Super 8s, a second round-robin. The top 4 teams go into the semi-finals.

All games are played under the One-Day International (ODI) format. Each team gets 50 overs to bat. (An over equals six balls bowled, from alternating ends…the same bowler cannot bowl two overs in a row.) You try and score as many runs as possible in this time; if your whole lineup gets out, then you don’t get to fulfill your 50 overs.

THE TEAMS: What will follow is a capsule preview of each of the ten test nations participating in the World Cup, for your enjoyment.


Population: 20 million

Best Result: Champion (1987, 1999, 2003)

Top Exports: Babes, Kangaroo meat, meatheads.

Why you should root for them: Australians are some of the friendliest most relaxed people in the world. They have an absolutely beautiful country that everyone should visit. They have stupidly stood by the U.S. in the War on Terror. Plus their country will be out of water in 20 years, and they could be potentially invaded by Indonesia at any moment. They need a lot of championships to build up their confidence.

Why you should root against them: They are the greatest dynasty in sports right now. In addition to winning the last two world cups, they have been by far the best test nation in the last decade (think Roger Federer/Tiger Woods domination,) which has led to the usual amount of arrogance and entitlement among their fans. Plus their fans are prone to making racist comments towards the opposition.

Three players to watch: Ricky Ponting, the captain and the best batsman in the world. Andrew Symonds, an all-rounder (batsman, fielder, and bowler) who excels at the one day game and is trying to make it back from injury. Glenn McGrath, fast bowler who is retiring after the World Cup and one of the two most important players to Australia’s long-term success.


Population: 147 million

Best Result: First Round

Top Exports: People, Despair

Why you should root for them: The newest team to achieve test status, Bangladesh has had to fight for respect ever since, with players from countries like Australia and England sneering at them that they don’t belong. Add on top of that they are one of the poorest countries in the world, and their government was recently ousted by a military coup that promises elections “in the near future.” Oh yea their country will be under water in the next thirty years, so they may not get too many more chances to enter a team in the tourney.

Why you should root against them: I don’t know, maybe if you haven’t killed enough puppies in the last few months and are looking to take your psychotic aggression out through sports.

Three players to watch: That one guy, I think he is a bowler. And that one batsman. Ok I don’t know that much about their team.


Population: 50 million

Best Result: Runner-Up (1992, 1987)

Top Exports: Chemicals, boats, hooligans

Why you should root for them: God damn did England had it made back in the 19th Century; they had colonial dominion over every country in the World Cup! (except The Netherlands.) They invented cricket and spread it to their colonies, bringing joy to billions of people the world over. Now they have been surpassed by most of their former colonies in all the sports they exported, and have to deal with everyone rubbing it in their face every time they beat them.

Why you should root against them: Somehow I think beating a national side in cricket, rugby, or soccer doesn’t make up for two centuries of enslavement and exploitation. But that’s just me.

Three players to watch: Andrew Flintoff, their all-rounder who led them to victory in the 2005 Ashes and was anointed the next great English cricketer only to suck ever since. Kevin Pietersen, who is actually South African but stabbed them in the back. Monty Panesar, who is a Sikh bowler who rocks the turban at all times.


Population: 1 billion

Best Result: Champion (1983)

Top Exports: India takes, it doesn’t give

Why you should root for them: With one billion people in a country that is obsessed with cricket, a victory would ensure the most happiness among the world’s people. Also India deserves some reward for putting together a Democratic country with at least thirty different languages, more ethnicities, and multiple populations of major religions. It’s a great fuck you to China’s claims that they are too big for traditional Democracy.

Why you should root against them: India uses its population and money to bully other cricket nations into accepting their terms for various events, the same way that a large corporation would use its weight to set the rules of the industry. Not very nice if you ask me.

Three players to watch: Sachin Tendulkar, one of the greatest batsman in history who is probably playing in his last world cup. Sourav Ganguly, who was kicked off the team as captain two years ago and has made a remarkable comeback into favour. Sreesanth, just because his name is Sreesanth.


Population: 4 million

Best Result: Semifinals (4 times, last ’99)

Top Exports: Sheep, Xtreme Sports, hobbits

Why you should root for them: 4 million people! That’s smaller than the Metro Boston area. They have no business winning any international competition of any kind. Plus they have to spend their entire lives playing little brother to a country (Australia) renowned for playing little brother to everyone else.

Why you should root against them: While New Zealanders are known to be a friendly, peace-loving people, they can’t hide the fact that they are crackers.

Three players to Watch: Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori, their two world class bowlers who could make New Zealand a dangerous team. Stephen Fleming, their long-serving captain who could be over the hill.


Population: 168 million

Best Result: Champions (1992)

Top Exports: Terrorists, Amina K. Majeed

Why you should root for them: They are bordered by one of the world’s most unstable countries (Afghanistan,) the site of the next major world conflict run by a borderline lunatic, (Iran) their traditional enemy, who has nuclear weapons and 7 times as many people (India,) and the world’s next superpower (China.) Oh and their entire Northwest quarter is controlled by violent tribes making it a haven for all sorts of illegal activity. Think the people need a distraction?

Why you should root against them: Their team is bunch of whiny prima donnas, led by their captain Inzamam Ul-Haq who also is blessed to share the Cecil Fielder body type. The national cricket board changed the rules to let back two bowlers who failed drug tests (Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif.)

Three Players to watch: Mohammed Yousuf, who converted to Islam over a year ago and was rewarded by Allah who granted him the ability to set the single season record for test runs scored in 2006. Asif, who barring injury and drug appeals, is their best bowler. Kamran Akmal, their young wicketkeeper who can win a game with his bat and lose one with his shaky field play.


Population: 47 million

Best Result: Semi-finals (’99)

Top Exports: Ostrich meat, auto parts, window sills, crafts, HIV

Why you should root for them: South Africans are the nicest people in the world and have come a LONG way in a short period of time. They were banned from international competition during the apartheid years. Their people deserve a reward for the progress. Africa needs a country to step up and be their representative in the world and South Africa can be that country; an international championship would go some way in building confidence.

Why you should root against them: If you yearn for the good old days of White Man’s Burden and Manifest Destiny.

Three players To watch: Graeme Smith, who became captain at 21 and is one of the game’s rising young stars. Makhaya Ntini, the best fast bowler in the world. Shaun Pollock, one of the world’s best all-rounders playing in his final World Cup.


Population: 20 million

Best Result: Champions (’96)

Top Exports: M.I.A., textiles

Why you should root for them: Sri Lankans may have the coolest names of anyone on the planet. (Sample from the 2007 roster: Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas.) Their country suffered through the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. They are the classic underdog team of the sub-continent with fewer resources than their bigger neighbors, yet are arguably the most successful team of the bunch.

Why you should root against them: There was this really hot Sri Lankan girl I met in Germany and she flirted with me for like an hour and a half before telling me she had a boyfriend.

Three players to watch: Kumar Sangakarra, the world’s best wicketkeeper. Muttiah Muralitharan, the best Sri Lankan player in history, and probably the world’s most controversial, (depending on which side you take, he either is the victim of white man’s persecution or they changed the rules to make his arm action legal.) Sanath Jayasuria, the hero of Sri Lanka’s surprise 1996 run making his last stand after being booted from the team a year ago.


Population: The “Windies,” are not a country per say, rather a collection of former British colonies that love cricket and have a co-op team.

Best Result: Champions (’75 and ’79)

Top Exports: See above

Why you should root for them: They are the hosts! And, as when any developing nation hosts a worldwide event, the rich nations are complaining about how everything is not up to their normal standards. Waa Waa. Plus the Windies are the traditional glamour squad of cricket that has fallen on hard times and is looking to re-establish dominance.

Why you should root against them: Because I am in Chicago and its twenty-five degrees out.

Three players to watch: Brian Lara, Brian Lara, Brian Lara. The West Indies’ one great player that provides a link to their glory days, and one of the finest batsman ever gives it a last hurrah. Going out with a World Cup victory at home would cement him as a cricket legend; he will be the story of the tournament.


Population: 33 million

Best Result: Quarterfinals

Top Exports: Former White Land Barons

Why you should root for them: Well you shouldn’t.

Why you root against them: Their cricket team is a political entity controlled by their dictator/president 4 life Robert Mugabe’s cronies. Many of the best Zimbabwe players have left the team and fled the country in protest of their government. Mugabe continues in power despite destroying the potential for one of Africa’s former rising stars.

Three players to watch: Zimbabwe doesn’t need us to watch them. It needs our TLC.

My prediction for the World Cup is as follows. Seven of the eight expected teams get through group play, Australia, India, Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. England, whose one-day record is abysmal despite beating Australia in the CB series, loses out to minnow Kenya. At least two arrests of players are made during this time, one drug-related, one sex-related. At least one player gets kicked off of Pakistan’s team. At least one team pulls their team from the field during a match citing unsafe conditions. At least one complaint is lodged about racist Australian fans.

The Super 8s produce the following semi-finals: Sri Lanka v. Australia and West Indies v. South Africa. Sri Lanka upsets Australia who have been barely staying alive all tournament. South Africa ends Lara’s dream of a World Cup on home soil, but he gets man of the tournament as a parting gift. South Africa wins the World Cup cementing their status as the new team to beat, at least on the One-Day side with Shaun Pollock taking MoM honors.

Should be fun. If you want to follow the games or the tournament, check out one of the best run, cleanest sports sites out there. Till then, Play Ball!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I Resolve to Look the Other Way

What did we honestly expect the Democrats to do when we voted them into power three months ago about the War? Many dovish peaceniks fantasized about an automatic pull-out of Iraq, although those of us not totally doped up thought. Some, like myself, wanted at least a substantial policy to come out of the change in power, either implementing the suggestions of the Iraq Study Group, or David Harris (a massive troop surge, followed by a phased withdrawal.) At least, I hoped, the Bush Administration would be forced to take a multilateral approach to their policy-making, realizing that the election was a direct rebuke to the reign of Rumsfield.

The Democrats, in the middle of a celebration of their newfound power, allowed The Presidency to draw the line in the sand on the most important issue of our time. While they were busy pushing through their 100 hours reforms, the President, through his primetime speech and the State of the Union laid out the stakes: He would not be accepting the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. He would not be working with Congress on foreign policy. Instead, he would poor some salt on a shit sandwich by sending a token amount of troops into Baghdad and calling it a “surge.” Most importantly, Bush offered no new ideas about acceptable outcomes that would lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

This straight up “Fuck You” to the Democratic Party (and the people who voted them into power,) regarding Iraq was pretty bold, even for Bush. In the face of falling popularity at home and continual failure abroad, he smiled and kept moving forward with what he (or his cronies,) think is the right thing to do (or the most profitable. If this is not a case of morality gone awry for Bush then he is as bad as Stalin.)

In my view, it is the responsibility of the Congress to respond accordingly. While foreign policy is traditionally the realm of the executive branch, what we have here is an administration that’s unwilling to listen to suggestions or alternatives from qualified sources when it’s clear we are involved in an international crisis that has the potential to affect the U.S. for decades to come. The time is now for Congress to step in and utilize the power of the purse.

Instead, we get this non-binding resolution crap. This is the worst of all worlds. It doesn’t even make sense politically. If the troop surge fails, Congress gets to say I told you so about Bush’s foreign policy, but Bush’s foreign policy is already about as unpopular as it can possibly be. If the troop surge succeeds, the Dems look like idiots for coming out against it.

And enough with the “we support the troops.” bullshit which is just the Democrats running scared from Republican accusations about potentially cutting funding. The Democrats need to show some balls and argue that cutting off funding isn’t a fuck you to the troops, it’s a fuck you to the leadership that is getting our troops killed. There has to be some level of accountability in government and this is the power that our forefathers granted to the Congress. Sure this reasoning will piss some people off, but now is the time to do that, 18 months away from the next election, with popularity for the war at an all-time low.

Of course everything the Democrats do in their first two years of power will be done with consideration for its effect on the ’08 election. They will be paralyzed to make any unpopular moves that can be brought back upon them, even if they may be the correct ones. With so much at stake, it will be hard for pols to move away from the influence of their campaign managers and lobbyists, instead they will adapt the John Kerry mode. As Kerry proved, all that gets you is a narrow defeat

I really believe that a politician that can come out and lead a stand against Bush based on taking the moral high ground, ignoring politics, and telling the truth, that this War is wrong, that our troops are dying, that it’s bankrupting our country, that the people of Iraq are suffering, that all that the U.S. stands for is being degraded every day we prolong this doomed conflict, and that our executive leadership is mired in the midst of a swirling vision of false hope and the fear of being wrong that needs to be blown away by the winds of change, he or she will come across as the Champion that the American people know they need in these troubled times. I doubt in the era of non-binding resolutions, that we will see such bravery.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


What do We Want? Gays in Sports!

Why is the idea of a Gay jock such a big deal? Gay ballerina, not so big a deal. Gay basketball player? Huge deal! Stop the presses! Front page news! Pull Wolf Blitzer off the Anna Nicole Smith autopsy watch!

One reason is that people in the ballet industry have probably been dealing with gay colleagues for a long period of time because their society is one where homosexuality is not stigmatized. In the world of professional sports, one of the solitary figures to come out, John Ameachi has to deal with Tim Hardaway making a comment like “I hate gay people…I think there is no place in the world or the United States for homosexuality.” If Hardaway is willing to make this comment in a public forum, god knows what he or others are willing to say in more private settings.

The problem here is twofold. First of all, athletes from any sport are not necessarily the smartest subsection of humanity. Yet when an issue such as a homosexual co-worker arises, they are asked to comment because they are public figures. These are questions that sometimes require an ability to understand a complex issue and digest multiple viewpoints. You are going to get some ignorance and stupidity that reflects that of the general population.

Second, and more importantly, it’s ok for ballerina’s to be gay because ballet is seen as a feminine persuasion. The two major institutions of manliness, are the military and athletics. And over the last decade, they have been the two institutions where discrimination against homosexuals has been tolerated, rationalized, and excused. In the military, it’s in the rules; you can’t be openly gay and serve your country. Evidently a homosexual in the forces kills morale, camaraderie, trust, discipline, and spreads Communism. (Look up the military’s official statement on the matter from 1981, which is still in force.) Similar arguments are made by athletes when they talk about a “lack of trust in the locker room,” or similar garbage, which substitutes for people’s true discomfort, being in a situation where they are around gay people and how it effects their own views of their sexuality.

What do people mean by comments such as “I wouldn’t want to shower with that guy.?” Evidently standing naked with someone who is gay is a dangerous habit; you never know if the gay person might sneak up behind you when you are washing the shampoo out of your eyes and try and cop a feel.

Of course, if you asked a gay person about that, they would laugh in your face. The truth is that most people, whether they are gay or straight, probably have some level of discomfort about showering next to other dudes. That doesn’t make them ignorant or weird, it just makes them normal.

Society reinforces standard sexual roles that many people do not fit into, starting of course with the standard husband-wife model. The fact is a majority of people do make it through life fulfilling this supposed “proper,” model. Yet anyone who does not is stigmatized as a failure. In fact, they are also normal.

The athlete and the soldier, enshrouded in the myth of manliness, are supposed to live up to their status as alpha males by sexually dominating multiple females. Males in this position are so obsessed by maintaining this image that they can’t even accept associating with homosexuals. Fear of the different and the unaccepted, combined with uncertainty about the self leads to a group reaction of discrimination and abuse. It’s the same old story.

American society is going through a conflict with regards to sex and sexual roles. The animosity towards gay marriage is the key political representation, and a different argument for a different blog. But can’t we all agree that a man or woman should at least be able to go to work and express him or herself as gay or lesbian while feeling safe and comfortable? It’s clear that in pro sports, this is not the case. This is a problem, and frankly people like Tim Hardaway need to grow the fuck up.

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