1. Brazil did not deserve to win yesterday. It was disappointing to see them lose, but my hat's off to the French side for playing a better game at both ends of the field. And was it just me, or did Ronaldo "fall" every time he touched the ball? Disgraceful.
2. England loses on penalities again and I have to laugh. There's a certain pleasure to be derived from watching one of the premier footballing nations get its hopes up every four years, have its team advance to the elimination stage, and then lose. One of the news sites I've been reading as I've been following the Cup posted this little tidbit last week:
But who are we kidding? We’ve been catching up on our reading. Namely, the latest issue of When Saturday Comes, the smart, funny soccer zine from the U.K. On the cover of this World Cup issue, put out just before the tournament started, is this picture of England strikers Michael Owen and Theo Walcott, complete with appropriate word balloons. Prophetic? Perhaps. This passage from the editorial certainly has the ring of prophecy:Again: hahahahahaha.
"England, meanwhile, will often be unable to get the ball back off Paraguay — and when they do they will be unable to keep it for more than two passes. Despite somehow grinding out a deeply tedious 1-0 victory, they will eventually proceed to lose in fairly honourable fashion to the first decent team they come across, as in 1998, 2002 and Euro 2004."
3. A story that almost slipped under my nose: The Tour de France began yesterday, just hours after the riders who finished 2nd through 5th in last year's Tour were suspended due to doping accusations. As reported in the New York Times:
Two riders who were considered favorites to win this year's Tour were among those suspended: Jan Ullrich of Germany, the Tour champion in 1997, a five-time runner-up and last year's third-place finisher; and Ivan Basso of Italy, who was second last year and won the Giro d'Italia, the sport's No. 2 multiday race, in May. Two other top riders — Francisco Mancebo of Spain and Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, who finished fourth and fifth at last year's Tour — are also gone. Mancebo was suspended by his team, and Vinokourov lost out when Astana withdrew Friday.This brings me to my question: what about Lance Armstrong? Are you telling me that he was THAT good that, one-nutted and all, he could beat the four guys who finished 2nd through 5th, all of whom were doping?
This is the unfortunate legacy of doping in any sport -- cycling, baseball, even soccer. The improper actions of a few extend a specter of impropriety over the sport as a whole. While I'd like to believe that Armstrong was "clean", my gut tells me it's unlikely he beat those four guys on his own. These types of alpha personalities are absolutely driven by the need to remain competitive. At some point, that need overwhelms logic and reason and the use of performance-enhancing substances becomes rationalized by thoughts like "I have to keep up with X guy who is probably doping" and "Well, this isn't on the banned list of substances so that must mean it's ok for me to use."
In Armstrong's case, the issue as to whether he was doping during his unprecedented run of Tour de France victories will probably never be resolved definitively. Some will try -- I can't take any of the reports / accusations in Le Monde seriously at this point as they seem hell-bent on destroying Armstrong's reputation over some petty humiliation that he's an American -- but in the end cycling, like baseball, needs to concentrate on the here and now and clean up their sports to ensure as level a playing field as possible for future participants.
4. See you in Vegas in four days.