Saturday, October 31, 2015

Smell ya later, Revs!

On Wednesday, I stood in the rain with a few thousand other similarly crazy people and watched our D.C. United run the New England Revolution into the ground. We fans were nervous going in for a few reasons, not the least of which is that we were coming off that horrible 5-0 loss to Columbus and if we lost this game, too, our season was over. Would the team be demoralized? Angry? Ambivalent? Determined? And then there was the addition of volatile referee Mark Geiger, whose antics had been dubbed "The Geiger Show" by our coach Ben Olsen a few years ago. Would the ringmaster unleash chaos on the field?

The evening was wet but unseasonably warm as we filed into our seats. The crowd at RFK a bit sparse due to weather and the short notice of the scheduling of the game. A tense opening 15 minutes was finally broken by a bicycle kick from New England's Juan Agudelo that sent the ball flying over Bill Hamid's reach as we all stood there stunned. The score was 1-0 to New England. But the tide would soon turn. A fantastic save from Hamid kept us in the game; Pontius equalized the score just before halftime with a skillful header.

And then the second half. The energy in the stands was electric, at least in our corner. Flags waving, chanting, a mist of water and beer in the harsh floodlights of RFK. New England was falling to pieces and it was only a matter of time before they completely collapsed... which they did, spectacularly.

The moment comes after my boy Rolfe misses a chance to take the lead when he misses his first penalty kick all season in the 75th minute. As he explained later, "I kept believing that I was going to get another chance and I was going to score. There was a split second there, maybe a minute or two after the PK where its running through my head and I’m like 'Wow, it’s just one of those days, you know, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I haven’t played 90 minutes in a long time, I don’t know if they’re gonna take me out.’ So I just cleared my head and tried to stay optimistic and kept making runs."

That's what it's all about, right there. Olsen trusting Rolfe enough to keep him in game. Rolfe trusting himself enough to brush off the missed chances. Nick DeLeon is seemingly cornered by some New England defenders, defenders so focused on the ball they don't mark Fabi running right past them. He picks up the ball on a backheel from Nick DeLeon and sends it gliding through the crowd of confused white-and-red shirts to Rolfe who puts it in the goal clean and simple. No theatrics. It was the communication, the teamwork that was thrilling... much more so than a single bicycle kick.

Because when it comes right down to it, what good is a single bicycle kick when it leaves you injured and having to come off? What's really impressive is staying in there, keeping focused through missed chances, keeping an eye on your teammates to be in the right position when the time comes. I got chills reading Rolfe's postgame quotes later; I honestly did. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to get the job done. In this age of smartphones and analysis via gif, of endless tweets and shortened attention spans, I aspire to that attitude. It's something I struggle with everyday. Trying my best to keep my head in the game and off the hamster wheel of mental distraction.

Soccer is 90 minutes away from all of that distraction. It's 90 minutes of being present in the present right in front of your face, something all too difficult to find these days. Bill Hamid--in a very sweet video you absolutely should watch--says a soccer game is like a symphony. Who am I to disagree? (Side note: #TeamSully)

Standing in the pissy weather, Rolfe jersey thrown on over my office clothes, I should have been exhausted from work and from 90 minutes spent yelling my ass off, but I was under the spell. Coming home and watching the highlights reel a million times, trying to hold onto the feeling of standing in RFK stadium in the mist, under the harsh light, breathless from excitement... It was a good game.

On Sunday we face our arch rivals, the hideously named New York Red Bulls, in the semifinals. What will happen? Who can say... but I know I'll be there.

(Yup, just thrown on over my librarian duds... I have so much laundry to do today. Oof. Dry cleaning bill sent to D.C. United? Heh. I promise I have movie-arts related posts coming. I PROMISE!!)

P.S. Thoughts are with Chris Pontius and his hamstring. I can't even imagine how shitty a mental place it sends you to as a professional athlete with a chronic injury like that. It must be really hard to push through the mental block. Stay strong, dude. See you at Whole Foods some time.

P.P.S. BOBBY BOSWELL, YOU BETTER COME JOIN US IN THE STANDS! (Or I'm linking everybody to your 2006 Cosmopolitan Man of the Year video...)

Monday, October 26, 2015

DC United goes down 5-0 against Columbus and I'm compelled to write on being a fan.

It's taken me many, many years to come around to professional sports. For one thing, here in America, a lot of sports-talk is dominated by the same assholes who tormented me when I was in school and who made me feel like shit for not looking like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Anything they liked must be shitty, right? Multimillionaire athletes, drug scandals, wife-beating, concussions, gun violence, homophobia, bullying, and now the shitshow that is Draft Kings... that is the image of professional sports. Why would I want to get involved in that mess?

Well, I'll tell you. I became a real DC United fan. That's right, Major League Soccer. MLS.

(Little bro, DC United Mascot "Talon", and me... way back in 1998)

(Me, photo taken by little bro, in 2015. Yup. But I now often spot myself in photos of the crowds.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I know. I'm sorry. I can't stop thinking about BIGBANG.

I spent the last day or so trying to pick apart my BIGBANG experience, much like picking apart a ball of yarn tangled by my cat. I can't let it go. My librarian-brain needs to figure this thing out. I read over a handful of "professional" reviews of the concert and some other pieces and I keep returning to the same handful of threads. Americans have a limited tolerance for spectacle; at least 95% of "professional" arts critics are full of shit; what gets lost in translation when pop goes global; and BIGBANG is fucking awesome. (The last one is most important.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BIGBANG-- random thoughts from the New Jersey concert

BIGBANG! Yes, I went to see BIGBANG this past weekend at the Prudential Center in New Jersey. And even in my nosebleed seats, the show was incredible.

I'm not sure where to start my discussion of BIGBANG. I've spent the last ten-plus years or so immersed in East Asian pop music and my feelings and opinions are colored by all of that. One angle overlooked by the professional music guys over here is that BIGBANG aren't just awesome but are an awesome Korean idol group-- with all the connotations that brings.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Morning rambling. The Last Samurai takes on A.B.C-Z, A.B.C-Z wins.

Just a Friday morning rant that's been percolating for a while. I am working on a more coherent intro to J-Pop, specifically idol pop, but I'm also thinking of starting to do Japanese music reviews. Most of what is available in English is uninformed bullshit written by white guys of middling talent who fled to East Asian media in order to feel special. Because only in cultures where speaking English is considered a huge talent can these guys feel important. Just check out the writings of Donald Richie. (#Burn.) More seriously, I hate the idea of these imbecilic white guys dominating the cultural conversation in English around a product I love: Japanese pop music. Much, much more seriously: Huge congratulations to A.B.C-Z on getting your very first NUMBER 1 SINGLE!!! A.B.C-Z、1位、おめでとうございます!!! 本当に感動した。 「Moonlight Walker」は楽しかった!!  I haven't been overly inspired by Indian film of late. I watched half of Uttama Villain last weekend before giving up in boredom...

One of the reasons I started studying Japanese all those years ago was because the things I wanted access to were not getting translated--movies, tv shows, books, magazine articles. Japan generates a lot of media but only a very small percentage makes it out to the wider world and much of what does make it out is specially handpicked by just a handful of cultural gatekeepers. What you find is that Japanese media available in English is either "world cinema" type stuff--Murakami, Kurosawa, etc.--or deliberately niche nerd stuff--Cowboy Bebop and Baby Metal. Neither of these things represents truly mainstream Japanese tastes or opinions. In order to learn more, I needed to be able to understand, to read Japanese. My grasp of the language remains far from perfect but in the process of studying the language I've learned a lot about the culture.

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