Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ryan Bailey, KickTV, and Glory Hunting

Ryan Bailey does work for KickTV and while I don't always agree with his assessments he generally provides some good commentary on football happenings around the world.  He recently did a video on the "Top 5 Signs you might be a Glory Hunter."  His first three were pretty logical:

1.  You're a Faraway Follower: you've never been to the home stadium of the team you support and have no plans to.
2.  All the Gear, No Idea: you haven't read a single book about your club's history.
3.  Can't Name a Starting 11: I would add on to this and say you should be able to name a starting 11, plus 7 subs, and the reasoning behind why you would pick them for this particular fixture.

When he comes on to reasons 4 and 5, Bailey treads onto the familiar grounds of Nick Hornsby's Fever Pitch, where a Brit tells us "the rules of football fandom."

There are no shortage of us who love the fact that the British invented the game and ourselves use anglicisms (pitch, match, hard done by, buzzing) to describe the game.  But to concede that the British didn't just invent the game but have written non-negotiable rules of fandom?  Sorry, Ryan, as we say in the Colonies, "that dog won't hunt."

Reason 4:  Long Distance Relationship.  There is a bit of overlap here, but Bailey is pointing out that you should support your local team first.  But this is a bit of a First World perspective, no?  There are people in countries all over the world who want to have a team to cheer for at the top levels of club competition, you know, during the 4 years that there isn't a World Cup and all you have are sporadic qualifiers to move you on.  Do you think there's a "club team" to cheer for in Singapore, my country of birth?  You pick a team, however you want to, and you support them.  In that support you shouldn't, as legions of Arsenal fans do, tweet #ArseneKnows one week and #WengerOut the next.  

Again, if you know your team's history and anything about the manager you are less likely to do something like the stupid #MoyesOut people are doing.  Those people must really not have read about Alex Ferguson's early years at United, which were hardly covered in glory.

Just because you don't live or have never lived in North London, doesn't mean you can't be an Arsenal fan.  A fellow gooner who I had never met bought me a pint upon my first visit to the Tollington for West Ham away on Boxing Day (couldn't get tickets there, but had seen us play Chelsea at the Emirates a few days before).  Apparently, he didn't, despite being an Arsenal fan his whole life, think I was a glory hunter for supporting Arsenal despite my birth in Singapore and my American citizenship.

There's also the matter of National Team Players.  When Clint Dempsey was playing the best football of his life, Americans bought Fulham shirts and supported that team because they loved seeing an American abroad.  Roma - and now Toronto FC - shirts probably sold because of Michael Bradley.  That's how this works.

Which leads to the final reason:

Reason 5:   Divided Loyalties.  Bailey serves up a dated notion:  You can only support one time.  Says who??  We are in the modern era, Ryan.  We can have access, via TV, satellite, and streams, to almost any league we want.  Some of us need a team to cheer for, sure, but others enjoy being a follower or even a neutral for other teams.  There are no "divided loyalties" when your teams never meet.  I'm a Sporting KC fan - who never plays Paris St. Germain.  According to Bailey, I'm only allowed to be a fan of SKC, the team of my residence for 7 years, and not allowed to be a fan of the city that plays in the city I live in now (albeit Parc des Princes is as close to outside of the city limits as you can get without actually being outside!).

Again, I think the glory hunters have been mostly driven out of Old Trafford (but they shall return!) as the club is unlikely to finish Top 4 or 5 this season, and to the instructive end of identifying and shunning said glory hunters, Bailey's first 3 reasons are well-taken.  But ultimately, it is totally reasonable for people who live in Mongolia, or the Congo, or Singapore, who don't have proximate club teams to follow (or don't want to follow - are all Koreans supposed to support the J-League, because it's "close" to them?) to instead follow and support distant clubs.

Furthermore, should a fan love soccer so much that he/she wishes to follow and support multiple teams in multiple leagues, God bless him/her.  I'm always up for fun and informative conversations with knowledgeable fans - and we cant all be journos who get paid to follow all the leagues, like Mr. Bailey.  Some of us follow those leagues and teams for love of the game.

And hopefully that, and not glory-hunting, is the reason we do it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


"Do you always do that?" she asked.  I had just ordered our meal.  Before the waiter had arrived she had told me what she decided on and I had said, "The lady will have..." followed by my own choices.  The waiter was walking away and I was closing my menu when the question reached my ears.  I looked up.

The light in her bright blue eyes corresponded to the tone of voice that indicated that a positive answer to her question would trigger at least slight irritation.

I paused and suppressed a smile that could be mistaken for condescension.  The smile, a natural expression for me, broke through anyway to stall while neurons rapidly ferried responses and hypothetical reactions between the decision and proposal centers of my brain.  Chessmate, a helpful computer program for the aspiring player, categorizes moves by percentage.  Post-game analysis uses these breakdowns to judge matches.  Alas, there was no chessmate for this situation.

There was the non-confrontational (but mendacious) typical first date answer of "No," delivered with a shrug and nonchalance, with the hope she wouldn't pursue it.

There was the worst possible answer, which would involve the use of "Of course," delivered semi-dismissively and with little to no eye contact.

Neither of those options appealed to me on any level.  I deflected.

"Why do you ask?" I asked, with a lightly earnest tone.

"I just...I am just not used to a man ordering for me..." She trailed off, the slightest look of distaste creeping into her countenance.

"...and you don't like it," I finished, with the slightest hint of a smile.


"So do you dislike men opening doors, paying for the meal, walking..."

"No," she interrupted.  "That's all fine."

I paused.  There was a logical disconnect there.  The construct she accepted was that men and women were not "equal."  They were complementary.  In this construct the hunter-gatherer would provide for, shelter, and care for the female.  We are long out of the cave so such an attitude is aptly conveyed by opening doors for women, walking closest to the street when you are both outdoors, paying the bill, and later in life, buying a ring, proposing, and taking legal and financial responsibility for her.  I know, I'm such a Neanderthal for even thinking such crimestop.  But indulge me a bit further.

"So you're okay with my paying for dinner, just not my ordering for you."

"Right," she smiled, sensing victory.  I waited just long enough, hoping she might see the gap, but a gentleman never insists on non-essential issues, and I said, "Okay, I won't order for you, anymore."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Shiny New Travel

Part of the thrill of travel is seeing everything with new eyes.  The sights, the smells, the words - everything is unfamiliar.  This is a sensation that those of us who enjoy travel crave.  It's as if our senses are on fire: bombarded in every way and enjoying simply standing in that warm downpour of input.

But this wears off - and it's well that it does - for it is surely only the wrapping paper of any new place you visit.

Last Christmas (seems ages ago now) I visited London.  This was my 4th visit and I never would have told you on my first visit in 2009 that I would come to so thoroughly enjoy this city.  But Big Ben and Tower Bridge weren't shiny anymore.  This actually freed me to do things I couldn't on previous visits.

1 Buckingham Place
This inauspicious address in Central London, roughly a mile from the Palace of the same name, was where The Prisoner, as portrayed by Patrick McGoohan, was originally abducted from.  For those of us who know and love the 17-episode series from the 1970s, this address is must-visit in London.  But there's nothing glamorous about it.    It was Boxing Day when I stopped by but I suspect it's always quiet.

The Gielgud
Surely those involved in the theatre always make a visit to the West End to take in a play as a mandatory part of their stay here.  I've always enjoyed plays but my previous visits never really allowed for them, and with the holidays, it wasn't easy to catch a show.  But - it can be done with a minimum of effort and a maximum of savings (LSBO).

The Emirates 
My obsession with soccer has followed a meteoric rise that probably got its impetus from the unbelievable rise of Sporting Kansas City.  I went back to playing recreational soccer, started following other leagues, and began picking teams to follow.  One of those leagues I started to follow was the Barclays Premier League and the team I chose was Arsenal (for a number of reasons I'll talk about some other time).  On previous visits to London I had not been as obsessed and more importantly, had not been a member.  Being a "member" of Arsenal for the annual fee of 30 pounds allowed me to purchase tickets internally at face value or via TicketExchange for a higher rate (you also get some swag and a members' only scarf).  The upshot of this is to tell you I got to see Arsenal play Chelsea without emptying my bank account.

The weather was horrid, Chelsea bunkered, and it ended in a nil-nil draw, but I had an unbelievable time.  I chanted along with the crowds, hearing in person the chants I had only ever previously heard through the television.  Later in the week I came back for a tour of the stadium - an absolutely magnificent facility - and got an even larger appreciation for just what it has taken for Arsenal to survive and thrive since 1886.

I'll be back soon - for a Champions League fixture perhaps - or maybe - if our run keeps up - the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

Shiny new travel is always a great time.  But so is the comfort of old leathery travel.  The kind that lets you really get into the soul of a city that a three-day trip can only skim.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Chasm: Why we can't even seem to have a discussion about homosexuality

Over the years I've learned that facebook is hardly the place for reasonable discussions of any serious matters.  Tempers flare white-hot instantly, and the cold anonymity of cyberspace (or at least the lack of having to actually work through an issue in person) allows people to say the most vile and thoughtless things.

If 2013 had one burning political issue that affected the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, three countries I at least keep a minimum of political tabs on, it was the discussion of "marriage equality."

All of the debates and mostly worthless articles I read on the subject always assume that this is simply some public policy issue, like segregation, or taxes, or military spending, when the reality is that it was nothing of the kind.  The issue, and what lay behind it, revealed the incredible chasm between those who consider faith a legitimate source of knowledge and truth, and those too "enlightened" to be anything but condescending to the benighted souls who still believe in the Uncaused Cause and His laws.

And so, if I am finally to speak on this issue then my discourse must begin with my points of departure.  At each of these points I will lose people: i.e. our disagreement on this or that major principle will cause disagreements on all later minor principles that are logical consequents.  Hence, wherever you like you can say, ah, that's why I don't agree with Stephen on "marriage equality" and de-friend me or stop reading or whatever you'd like.  But if you fancy yourself truly open-minded, read to the end to find out what someone who takes God at His Word actually thinks.

1)  I believe that this universe and world was created ex nihilo by a loving God who has given us the ineffable gift of life.  This staggering gift daily reminds us that our life is not totally our own.  All we do should keep the glorification of God foremost.

2)  I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He founded the Catholic Church to help souls get to Heaven.  The Church prescribes guidelines and laws not only to help in the spiritual life, but also proposes solutions to our civil life in order to maximize happiness, contextualize suffering, work for social justice, and to create virtue in society.

3)  Governments, in a subsidiarial relationship to the Divine authority of the Papacy, also stand to be helpers towards the ultimate goal of salvation.  Government is far from a "necessary evil" or a "problem" but is indeed a positive good and legislates morality all day long (e.g. murder and theft are not tolerated, but punished).

4)  Church and State should not be separated.  They work best hand-in-hand.  The State should support the interests of the Church and vice-versa, within reason and sensibility.

5)  The word "homosexuality" does not even exist in some cultures and is nearly unseen in the animal kingdom.  This non-religious metric applied against a number of cultures worldwide indicates that homosexuality has never been considered "normative."  More importantly than this, homosexuals cannot consummate a normative sexual act.  Their acts have no corresponding biological purpose and quite literally they cannot help society continue its most basic end: continuance through reproduction.

6)  Apart from offending the natural law, a point on which numerous non-religious people agree, homosexuals violate the law of God, whose words in Scripture, in both the Old and New Testaments, condemn homosexuality in the harshest of terms.  Surely God punished heterosexuals, but Sodom and Gomorrah were explicitly destroyed for their unnatural, unclean practices.

7)  The Church teaches, and therefore, so should governments reinforce, that all such unions are not simply unnatural, but corrosive to good society.

8)  For those who would argue that heterosexuals destroy marriage, I agree, which is why pornography, contraception, abortion, and divorce should be outlawed.  If people choose not to be virtuous, that is one thing.  To get state-sanctioned support for their immorality is another thing entirely.

9)  And finally, for those who think a principled stance against a "lifestyle" is undergirded in hate, rather than a burning love of God and a desire to obey His law (and to help one's neighbor obey those laws), I simply ask you to realize that you may have your own convictions that are as deeply held as my own, but to accept that I do not rage against you.  I do not hate you.  If my arguments do not move you, I can always pray.  I wrote this so that you know where I am coming from.  If we understand where we are supposed to start we can begin to understand how this will end.