24 June 2010

Sconfitta d'Italia


It was a sad day in my house yesterday. We watched Italy lose 3-2 to Slovakia and get bounced out of the World Cup in the first round, placing last in a pretty weak group.

The intensity of emotion here (which was admittedly pretty strong) is nothing compared to the anger, resentment and shame plastered across the Italian newspapers today.

The fact is, Italians - masters of the dramatic - are overstating the case a wee bit. The team wasn't that bad. And Italy's last 20 minutes were amazing, when they finally played with a sense of urgency and passion. The question is, why couldn't they pull out perfromances like that earlier in the tournament - like say against lowly New Zealand?

Marcello Lippi is trying to take all the blame. And he probably should. Most of it at least. But the fact is expectations were too high, the team and the circumstances were not the same as four years ago (No Totti No Party) and the team was unable to perform under the pressure. Finally, they got desperate, channeled that emotion into their game and fought for their lives. But it was too little too late.

Chiara was crushed. And I too was sad. But as a fan you have to pick yourself up, give credit to the the plucky Slovaks, and carry on. And we'll be doing our carrying on in England.

England also played terribly their first two games, but pulled it together for Game 3. All of it. They played with flair and purpose for the whole 90 minutes. And it wasn't too late for them. They're off to face Germany on Sunday. A match, that unbelievably and rather awfully, conflicts with my workshop.

I may not get to watch that game, but I'll be cheering for England, because now that Italy is out, my loyalty's are not divided: I want, first and foremost an awesome tournament. And, secondly and selfishly, I want England to win, so I can be at a World Cup victory party again.


21 June 2010

Improv Comedy Wisdom

I should be back in the UK tomorrow, and ready to strike out for Brighton on Sunday to teach an improv workshop with the delightful folks from A Fish Called Improv.

The session is called: The Improv Comedy Wisdom with Ryan Millar - 'Squeezing the improv comics’ wisdom'. I don't know what you think, but I think it sounds good.

I've put a lot of holiday thought into what kind of improv wisdom I'd like to spill, and I'm thinking this workshop will be a lot of educational fun of the experiential variety. Plus it takes place in Brighton, home of wonder. Brighton rocks.

The other good news is that it's almost already sold out, but there are still some slots left. Tickets are here.


19 June 2010

Algeria's Scoreless Draw!


We're weekending in Marseilles en route to London and our rented apartment overlooks the Vieux-Port. It seems like a busy place - especially last night. We were kept up until quite late by Algerian fans celebrating their 0-0 draw against England.

It's funny to think that a dull scoreless draw, in which neither side had many great chances, would be the source of such celebration: Nobody won! Nobody lost! Nobody even scored a goal! HURRAY! - It's basically the opposite of sports fandom.

But as I watched the flare-lit celebrations from our window, I got the sense that a lot of those people weren't really football fans anyway, and the result was as irrelevant as the sport itself. They were just out to congregate and celebrate their Algerianess. Then I remembered the point of the World Cup: for the underdogs to thrill at every small morsel of success - however inconsequential, and the powerhouses to wring hands, point fingers, and hit the panic button every time they do not hammer their opponents 6-0.

Which brings me to my next point: I think I enjoyed the Algerian noiseparty almost as much as I revelled in the shocked silence following the 2-0 Mexico France encounter. It's not schadenfreude though; it's the satisfaction of justice meted out belatedly, (the football Gods have not lost their dab hand at showmanship). It's also, like North Korea scoring against Brazil, and Germany losing their second game after manhandling the Socceroos, yet another signal that the second round will be full of surprises.


09 June 2010

Punting the World Cup

England makes betting so easy. My neighborhood particularly has a whole lot of betting shops. I usually find this frustrating, as geneerally I would prefer useful shops to occupy these spaces. But I just invested some money in World Cup outcomes. It was so convenient.

I made a bunch of 'smart' bets. Like Argentina to win, Spain to win with David Villa to capture the Golden Boot. But I also made some riskier (and thus potentially more rewarding) bets.

New Zealand to top their group, and Cameroon to win it all. Also: Peter Crouch as top goal scorer. I could be rich this time next month.

But with the betting, the Fantasy League, the supplements it's all about finding more ways to get involved.

The more access points, the better. For which I also present The World Cup Translated into American. Courtesy of The Unlikely Fan.


07 June 2010

World Cup Fever Dreams!


The World Cup is the planet's biggest, most colourful and most fantasy-friendly tournament. (Code: 185181-44323). There are simply not enough pull-out supplements, fantasy leagues, or twitter feeds to slake my thirst.

Last time around, I spent some time in Berlin in the fan zones, and at the Olympischstadion to watch Croatia play Brazil. In fact, I blogged every single game of World Cup 2006. I also watched the final in Circo Massimo in Rome and partied like crazy when Italy won. Photos.

That experience will be tough to match or exceed. I don't think this year I'll be as immersed in the World Cup. Plus I've got lots of other activities and commitments to keep me occupied. I'm trying to budget my time accordingly - that's the idea anyway.

But, once the South Africa - Mexico game gets underway on Friday 11 June, all bets are off.

NOTE: My decision to cheer for Italy last time around was not a brain-decision, it was a heart one. I didn't know that they were my team until I watched them play their first game.

I'm expecting this year Italy will be my team again, but I'm not sure they're all aligned for Lippi this year. He's gone conservative and aged in his selections. I like them, but I'm just not sure about them. Also note this: four years ago I lived in Italy and they won the World Cup. That was an incredible experience. This year I live in England.

I'm not saying I'm switching allegiances, I'm just saying I like being at World Cup victory parties.

Actually, I just like the world Cup. Get your fever on.


04 June 2010

Belgian Beer: The Real Article


We're going to Belgium next week. There's a lot of stuff we need to do, and people we need to see. And now we've added one more task: visiting some Abbeys and trying some real Trappist beers.

This is not just a 'fun' thing to do - though I suspect it will also be that - it will be a 'work' thing as well. I have successfully pitched an article about Abbey beers to one of the magazines I was interning for last week.

Business and pleasure, I'm pleased we can all be friends.

For some context, here's a post I wrote a few years back about the first time I tried the fabled Westvleteren beer.