Monthly Archives: June 2010

“Mr. Wetteland, my name is Anna. I’m a lifelong Mariners fan…”

I skipped out on my swanky 10-year reunion dinner to go to Mariners Singles Night. I’d bought the ticket a while ago, and figured that, while the 10-year reunion dinner would have been fun, Singles Night would definitely lead to a good story. I went in without any expectations, and had a great time. Some guys from Vancouver were holding their bachelor party there, and the piano players from Chopstix were great.

After a beer, I found myself standing over near the bullpen. At Safeco Field, the Mariners bullpen is right next to the Bullpen Market. From a fan’s perspective, it’s pretty cool. You can watch pitchers warm up, and sometimes you can interact with the players. I doubt the players like it very much, though. I know I wouldn’t want drunk fans yelling at me every night.

Some drunken assholes had been yelling vitriolic insults at John Wetteland, the Mariners bullpen coach. He came over and settled them down. I stood and listened to his pep talk. After the drunk fans left, I was still standing there. From the bullpen bench, Wetteland caught my eye, and I waved. Once again, he walked over and said “Excuse me, mam, but did you need something?”

Sometimes, after a beer, I just open my mouth and say what I think. Among my friends, this is an endearing habit. At least, I hope it is. So I opened my mouth, and this is what came out.

“I just wanted to say hello. Mr. Wetteland, my name is Anna. I’m a lifelong Mariners fan. I really want you guys to turn this thing around. The whole city feels bad for you guys, and we want to turn it around as much as you do.”

John Wetteland smiled a little, and said, “Don’t feel bad for us. We’re out here working really hard. If we weren’t working hard, you could feel bad. I don’t feel bad. You shouldn’t either.”

“Yes, but I really want you guys to turn this thing around. You see, it’s always been my dream to hear Dave Niehaus call a World Series.”

John Wetteland took a step back, and with a twinkle in his eye said “That would be really cool.”

And then, he put his hand through the bars of the bullpen gate, shook my hand, and said “It was nice to meet you, Anna.” He turned and went back to his coaching duties.

I was awestruck. As a baseball fan, one always hopes to be close enough to the players to actually interact with them. When you grow up with the game, the players always seem larger than life. Everyone wants to have a story about a meaningful baseball interaction. And this was mine. John Wetteland and I agreed that hearing Dave Niehaus call a World Series would be really cool. I think the poignancy of that statement was not lost on either of us. Niehaus is getting up there in years. For this to happen, the Mariners need to turn it around quick. Niehaus has been the Mariners’ radio broadcaster since Day One. Calling a World Series would be the crowning moment of his career.

Wetteland himself is connected with a piece of Mariners history. In Game 4 of the 1995 American League Division Series, John Wetteland was brought into the game in the 8th inning in a 6-6 tie. The Mariners loaded the bases, and Edgar Martinez, the greatest designated hitter of all time, hit a grand slam. The Mariners would go on to win that game 11-8.

My friends totally thought I was drunk when I called them, but I was honestly just euphoric. It’s not every day that you can have a five-minute conversation with the bullpen coach. They usually do their best to stay focused and ignore the fans.

After I calmed down a little, I decided to go to my seat. But first, I wanted to make sure I said goodbye to Mr. Wetteland and the rest of the bullpen. Don’t ask me why I thought this was a good idea. So, I walked over to the bullpen gate again, and got the attention of the sheriff inside.

“Hello, Mr. Sheriff,” I said. He came over. “So, John Wetteland came over and talked to me earlier, and I just wanted to say thank you to him. See, that really meant a lot to me that he did that. It was nice. I’m a lifelong baseball fan. I’m going to go to my seat now. If you would tell him thank you from me, that would be great.”

Apparently after a beer, I talk like a member of the Cleaver family. But this is honestly what I remember saying to the sheriff.

The sheriff nodded and smiled. “Don’t you go anywhere. I have to let Mr. Wetteland know who is saying thank you.”

And sure enough, between the first and second inning, the sheriff went over and told John Wetteland exactly what I’d said. He waved at me and tipped his cap. Other members of the bullpen gave me a little wave, too. It was awesome.

After the game, I decided to come back and say thank you to the sheriff. I walked up and said, “Hi. Remember me?”

“Of course,” the sheriff said. He smiled. He reminded me a little of my grandfather, if Granddad had been a King County sheriff with a rather imposing badge.

“I just wanted to say thank you for conveying my message. My name is Anna, by the way.”

The sheriff introduced himself, but I forgot what his name was. I’ll have to ask him again the next time I’m at the ballpark.

“I’ll come back and say hello next time I’m here.”

“You can say hello any time, Anna,” the sheriff said.

“Maybe I’ll say hi to the bullpen, too. Do you think they’ll remember me?”

“I don’t think they’re going to forget you for a really long time,” the sheriff said.

So, that’s how I met John Wetteland. I guess it’s not every day that a random fan just walks up to the bullpen and says the equivalent of “Excuse me, but will you please turn this thing around. See, Dave Niehaus is getting up there in years, and I’d like to hear him call a World Series.” And it’s definitely not every day that a major league bullpen coach listens, shakes the fan’s hand, and agrees that hearing Niehaus call a World Series would be really cool.

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Date Update

OK — so the sportsologist’s 6:30 AM date to watch US vs. Slovenia was kind of a dud. No, really a dud. I had already walked over to Azzurri by the time the guy called to say he had showed up. He was 15 minutes late. And he wasn’t really all that cute — didn’t look anything like his picture. The game was fun, but at halftime, he was on his iPhone the entire time. Um, not cool.

I happily trotted over to Azzurri after the game to hang out with my Italian friends and watch England vs. Algeria with them. A scoreless draw, after the referee’s debacle in the US game, was the best possible outcome for the Yanks. If we beat Algeria, we’re in!

My classes start tomorrow, so I don’t know how much time I will have to watch soccer and write. I will do my very best, though!

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That Red Card Was Crap!

OK. I’m pissed. That red card the South African keeper got in the 2nd half was complete and total crap. On the replay, it clearly shows Khume going for the ball, and not going for Suarez’ legs. Suarez has a flair for the dramatic and boy, did he ever capitalize on it! That was the worst call I have seen yet in this World Cup.

South Africa is basically all but guaranteed not to advance. Mathematically it’s possible, but here’s what has to happen. The standings for Group A right now are as follows:
Group A
Uruguay — 4
South Africa — 1
France — 1
Mexico — 1

France and Mexico have to tie tomorrow, giving each team two points. (So…Uruguay 4, France 2, Mexico 2, SA 1). South Africa then has to beat France in its final match, and Uruguay absolutely must beat Mexico. That would make the standings look like this:
Uruguay 7
South Africa 4
France 2
Mexico 2

I think that’s the only way to do it. Otherwise it comes down to some complicated math regarding goal differential, which I really don’t understand. (If one of my soccer-loving friends would propose another scenario by which South Africa could advance, please do so in the comments.)

I hope that Uruguay does not survive the Round of 16. Diego Forlan, you may be hot, but you’re dead to me after today. Uruguay was just flopping all over the place. It seriously felt like they were stopping the game every 3 minutes.

So, tomorrow’s Mexico-France game basically could decide the tourney. I’ll definitely be watching that one.

And a correction from the previous post — I’m predicting Ghana and Germany to advance out of Group D, not Serbia. I kinda was on autopilot when I wrote “Serbia.” Whoops.

I don’t think I’ve ever texted anybody so many swear words before as I did after that red card. Sorry about that, soccer buddies.

(An aside — now I’m kinda worried that the incredibly foul mouthed sports fan I usually keep inside on dates is going to come out on Friday morning. I don’t think the phrase “that red card was f*cking bulls*it” is really that charming, do you?)

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Spain vs. Switzerland

Wow. That was an amazing upset. Spain was heavily favored to win this one, but the Swiss stepped up their game quite a bit. Their defense really put the hammer down. Spain had a couple of good chances, but the Swiss defense stymied them.

And that goal. Amazing. Just amazing. Keep had come out, leaving the goal basically undefended. He couldn’t get back in time, although he really tried. Hard to tell if the goal went off the Spanish keep or not. Beautiful goal. Stunning upset.

It’s anybody’s World Cup, now. Switzerland could advance out of this bracket — Group H is really tough, too. It’ll be great to see what happens in the next couple games.

All 32 teams have played now. Here are the groups and standings, plus a few of my hunches on teams you should watch.
Group A
South Africa — 1
Uruguay — 1
France — 1
Mexico — 1
South Africa managed to play to a draw with Mexico in the first game. They could advance, especially since Uruguay, the team they play today, has two players with yellow cards and one who managed to get two yellows in the game against France — a red card. If South Africa beats Uruguay today, they could advance.
The Mexico-France game is likely to determine the first seed. France has three players carrying a yellow card, including Ribery. Definitely going to be a great game tomorrow.

Group B
South Korea — 3
Argentina — 3
Nigeria — 0
Greece — 0

I caught a replay of the South Korea-Greece match, and the South Koreans look really strong. Argentina only beat Nigeria by one goal, which was surprising. Nigeria will likely beat Greece. My predictions are that Argentina and South Korea will advance out of this group.

Group C
Slovenia — 3
US — 1
England — 1
Algeria — 0

Despite Slovenian trash talking, I think both the US and England can beat them. But the US has had problems with Slavic defenses before. US is playing with some confidence after the tough draw with England — hopefully some of that carries over into Friday’s match. Sorry Slovenes, but we will crush you. Both US and England should be able to beat Algeria. My prediction is that both US and England advance. I’d rather US get out of this group first seed, and not second. Second seed is likely to face Germany…

Group D
Germany — 3
Ghana — 3
Serbia — 0
Australia — 0
Boy, did the Germans ever make mince meat of Australia! I’m picking Ghana and Serbia to advance. If Australia is really that poor, Ghana can beat them. My poor Serbs have no chance against Germany, but will likely beat Australia. Sorry Aussies. Better luck next time.

Group E
Netherlands — 3
Japan — 3
Cameroon — 0
Denmark — 0
If Denmark beats both Japan and Cameroon, it could come in second and get out of this bracket. But Japan played well against Cameroon. Asian teams are playing well at this World Cup, and they could very well advance out of this bracket if they keep it up. I’l be watching the Japanese closely.

Group F
Paraguay — 1
Italy — 1
New Zealand — 1
Slovakia — 1
Italy nearly lost to Paraguay, but should be able to beat both the Kiwis and the Slovaks. Second place is anybody’s game. Paraguay played tough, and are likely feeling pretty confident after playing the 2006 WC champions to a draw. I did not see the NZ – Slovakia match.

Group G
Brazil — 3
Ivory Coast — 1
Portugal — 1
North Korea — 0
As I wrote yesterday, Brazil is all but assured passage out of this “Group of Death.” Ivory Coast and Portugal played to a scoreless tie. North Koreans scored a great goal against Brazil, and proved surprisingly tough. Their defense wore out at the end, though. Second place will likely come down to how much Portugal and the Ivory Coast beat NK by, and how much they both get beaten by Brazil. But Brazil did not look dominant for much of yesterday’s match. Watch the games with Portugal and the Ivory Coast closely. Could have a few surprises.

Group H
Chile — 3
Switzerland — 3
Honduras — 0
Spain — 0
The big question after today’s upset is — will Spain advance? Only 8% of the teams that lose their first match advance to the second round. Switzerland, as I wrote earlier, played absolutely brilliantly against Spain. Their defense, and keep, were both bad ass. Switzerland could be the dark horse out of this group. Watch this one, as well.

Thoughts after the first matches? Comments? Predictions? The upset made this WC a lot more exciting.

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Sportsologist to go on a date!

So I just got asked out on a date to go watch the USA vs. Slovenia game at a pub somewhere. Funny thing is, that game airs at 7 AM Pacific time. I will be at a pub on a date at 7 AM, watching soccer. We’ll probably need to get to a place early to grab a seat. So 6 AM.

I can’t stop giggling. If I was any other woman, I’d say “No way Jose. There’s no way I’m going on a date to watch a soccer game at 6 AM.” But I’m not any other woman. I’m a diehard sports fan. And I think watching a soccer game at 7 AM on a date sounds like a fabulous idea. Not just any sports game, but the World Cup!

This guy is now officially kind of awesome.

Still, I can’t stop giggling. How does one dress for a date that begins at 6 AM? To wear makeup, or not to wear makeup? Do I even attempt to look nice, or do I just say “screw it — it’s 6 AM!”

Thoughts and advice would be much appreciated.


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Group G

I thought about skipping the 7 AM match between Ivory Coast and Portugal, but then I read the analysis on the FIFA website about Group G. This group consists of Portugal, Brazil, Ivory Coast, and North Korea. Brazil was ranked first in the 2010 season, Portugal third, the Ivory Coast fifteenth (I believe), and North Korea 105th. Talk about a tough bracket!

Ivory Coast and Portugal played to a scoreless draw. There seem to have been a lot of draws in this World Cup. It makes the group standings rather interesting. More on that later. The draw likely hurt Ivory Coast, and may have helped Portugal. Both teams are likely to get beaten by Brazil — although North Korea gave the Brazilians a run for their money today. Both teams are also likely to beat North Korea. Second place in this group may come down to goal differential. We shall see.

I was definitely impressed with the North Koreans today. Their defense had Brazil stymied in the first half. But Brazil wore them down, scoring twice in the second half. North Korea scored a brilliant goal, and was really pressing to score another one at the end. With the exception of the guys in Brazil jerseys, most of us at the Italian soccer bar were rooting for the Koreans in the last few minutes. They scored against the best team in the world, and you have to respect that.

Group H plays tomorrow, and then we start all over again with a Group A match — South Africa vs. Uruguay. Right now, two groups are essentially all tied up in the standings — Group A and Group F. Like I said, there have been a lot of draws in this World Cup.

USA vs. Slovenia on Friday. Slovenia’s Andrej Komac has been trash-talking, predicting that Slovenia will beat the US. This is the equivalent of Hasselbeck saying “we’ll take the ball and we’re gonna score.” Bring it Komac. Bring it.

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Pac-10 Expansion Update

ESPN is reporting that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are all leaving for the Pac-10. But Texas may actually stay in the Big 12.

Colorado has gone to the Pac 10. Nebraska to the Big 10.

Oh, and for Seattle sports fans — the Mariners won yesterday. Word.

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World Cup Fever

I have been getting up at 6 AM to watch World Cup matches since Saturday morning. Something about the atmosphere at the George after the Sounders loss on Thursday night — I got caught up in World Cup fever. The best way to learn about a sport is to throw oneself into it, I think. So I’ve been hanging out at the Azzurri soccer bar in Fremont. Great atmosphere — really chill. And people are happy to teach me about soccer.

I caught the first few matches at The George and Dragon. Nice atmosphere, too, although I don’t like getting hit on by extremely drunk dudes at 9 AM. Predictable result for the first game I saw — Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0. They replayed the South Korea-Greece game at 9 — SK looked completely dominant.

And then, the big kahuna. England vs. USA. The George is a Brit bar, but it seemed like 3/4 of those there were rooting for the US. We could not get inside, and watched the game from the beer garden in the parking lot. US got scored on early, which seemed to deflate the crowd. But then we got a lucky break. Green, the English goalie, really lived up to his name. He missed the ball. 1-1 tie. The bar erupted in cheers of “USA! USA!” And I was hooked.

I still don’t quite understand the mechanism that allows teams to advance to the next round. I know you get a certain number of points for wins and draws, and then goal differential gets involved. It’s rather confusing. But a draw with England is great for the US. Since Slovenia beat Algeria, both teams have to beat Slovenia to be assured of advancing. We will see what happens.

Got here early yesterday to watch my Serbia lose to Ghana. Serbia played really ugly, and got a red card. And then, one of the players gets an automatic yellow card for a handball. Kevin-Prince Boteng kicked a beautiful penalty kick. Serbia’s goalie went one way, and the ball went the other. Tough break for my Serbs, but you can’t make dumb mistakes in the World Cup.

Just finished watching Japan v. Cameroon. First real upset of the cup. Cameroon stepped up their game in the second half, but it was easy to read their strategy — long pass forward and hope a forward gets it. Japan could read it no problem — they just moved everyone back.

This place is about to be hoppin’ for Italy vs. Paraguay. It’s an Italian soccer bar. By default, I’m rooting for Italy.

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Japan v. Cameroon

A lovely buon giorno to you from the Azzurri Vino Bar in Fremont! After watching Saturday’s games at the crazy George and Dragon, I am now hanging out in a much quieter place. Dealing with drunk dudes trying to hit on me at 9 AM is not my idea of a good time. I’ll be camped out here for most of the World Cup, and anyone is welcome to join me. I’m not hard core enough to get up for the 4:30 AM matches, but I’ll be here for most of the 7 AM ones. After Summer Quarter starts, I will be watching the 11:30 matches at Schultze’s on The Ave.

Good match so far. Japan caught Cameroon’s defense back on its heels, and scored a lovely goal in the first half. Second half is starting. Better pay attention. More about World Cup madness after this game finishes.

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World Cup Fever

After watching the Sounders game last night at a great soccer bar in Seattle, I got hooked. D.C. United’s Chris Pontius scored three goals, and it was 3-0 for most of the game. My uneducated observation (I’m rather new to soccer) was that it seemed like the team had difficulty finishing their drives. The Sounders were great at getting the ball down the field, but had difficulty getting open to take shots on goal. And when they did take a shot on goal, the shots often missed the mark. It was frustrating.

Then, an amazing thing happened. Two Sounders goals in the last few minutes of regulation! The bar I was watching went nuts. And for the minute of stoppage time, we were riveted to the screen, waiting to see if the Sounders would score a third goal and tie the game. They didn’t. But I got hooked.

The World Cup began today, and I have soccer fever. I have it bad. I drove over to Microsoft to watch the 11:30 Uruguay-France match with a friend of mine. When ESPN replayed the South Africa goal at halftime, the entire restaurant erupted in applause. Both the South Africa-Mexico match and the Uruguay-France match ended in ties — so all four teams in Group A are essentially tied in the standings. South Africa could actually advance if they beat Uruguay and tie France. It’s exciting.

Yes, Seattle has gone soccer mad. And I’m using the World Cup as Soccer 101, trying to learn all I can about the sport. I’ll actually be getting up at 6 AM tomorrow to drive over to the George and Dragon to watch Argentina v. Nigeria at 7 and England vs. USA at 11:30. It’s going to be awesome.

Stay tuned for interviews with big-time soccer fans! Are you watching the games? If so, where? And why do you love soccer?

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