The Beautiful Game's Beautiful Game
A month ago, for many Americans, the game the world calls Football had mostly been appreciated through viewings of Ted Lasso, Mbappé was assumed to be a reference to an old pop song by the family band Hanson or the latest high-caloric iced mocha drink from Starbucks (Mbappécino), and Messi sounded like a new Netflix reality show from Marie Kondo. What a difference a beautiful month with the beautiful game makes, especially when it's capped off with an otherworldly, storybook final game in which two legends faced off on the biggest stage in sports and, in the end, both of their legends grew. Messi established himself as the GOAT and Mbappé's hat trick secured his spot as the greatest of this time, and the foreseeable future. In short, if, a month ago, you set out to finally get into soccer, there's only one word necessary: goooooooooooal! For a brief moment, we were all Andres Cantor calling the end of the match. As Brian Phillips writes in The Ringer, We Are All Witnesses. "Every game is a story. And when you consider the stakes, the performances, the history in the balance, the refusal of either side to lose, the moments of astonishing play, the sudden reversals and wild swings of momentum, the knife’s-edge uncertainty of the outcome, and the epochal significance of a result that brought the career of the world’s best player to an almost magically perfect climax, it is hard to imagine a story more overwhelming or more satisfying than this one." (Unless you're from France, in which case, it's not at all hard to imagine.)
+ Ed Caesar in The New Yorker: "This was the best World Cup final I have ever seen, that perhaps anyone has ever seen—a match stuffed full of so many remarkable incidents, so much tension, such dramatic momentum swings, such joy."
+ "His penchant for walking is not a symptom of indolence or entitlement; it’s a practice that reveals supreme footballing intelligence and a commitment to the efficient expenditure of energy. Also, it’s a ruse—the greatest con job in the history of the game." Jody Rosen in The New Yorker: The Genius of Lionel Messi Just Walking Around. (I did something similar through four seasons of high school football practices and yet, my coaches never quite saw the genius.)
+ Ryan O'Hanlon in ESPN: Why Lionel Messi is the best male athlete of all time. (Whether you agree or not, it's an interesting argument. Messi is definitely paid like one of the best athletes of all time! He also now has the most liked image shared by an athlete on Instagram.)
+ Of course, the match was not all about Messi. It was also about Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martínez whose pretty American shoot-out shenanigans were largely beyond the US TV frame, but whose hand job seen 'round the world was not (Emi, get a grip!)
+ It's possible that Argentina had an unfair advantage. "The witches said their main focus is to use rituals to absorb negative energy from Argentina’s players and exchange it with good energy." NYT: Behind Argentina’s World Cup Magic, an Army of Witches. (You'd have to be a real lunatic to believe in this kind of nonsense. That said, I've hired a handful of them to go to work for the 49ers next month.)
+ The final, in photos. And equally exciting, from WaPo, photos of fans watching the greatest final ever.
+ In addition to bragging rights, Argentinians will get all the Budweiserleft over from Qatar after it was banned from the stadiums. Um, congrats?
+ The next stop for the World Cup is the Women's World Cup next summer in Australia and New Zealand and then the Men's next meeting in North America in 2026. Meanwhile, if you've got the bug, there's this from NPR: The World Cup is over. What soccer should I watch now? Sadly, Ted Lasso season three doesn't yet have a release date. This season, Ted won't have to remind people to believe. After this World Cup, we already do.
2. To Whom It May Refer
"The House Jan. 6 committee voted unanimously at the end of its final public meeting Monday to approve its historic final report on the Capitol riot and criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump and others. The committee referred Trump to the Justice Department for obstructing an official proceeding, defrauding the US, making false statements and giving aid or comfort to an insurrection." America's most notorious criminal has been criminally referred by the Jan 6 committee. What does that mean? Something politically, not much legally, and as I've been saying for years, very little intellectually. We all saw and heard what happened in real time. Outcome still TBD. Here's the latest from CNN.
3. If You Were Taught It, Then Do The Math
"Over the past few years, the congresswoman has been alarmed by stories of schools shortening weeks, canceling classes, increasing class sizes, and placing underprepared substitutes in teaching roles because of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing teacher shortages. While there isn’t a single database tracking teacher shortages, one report estimates the nation had around 36,500 teacher vacancies at the start of this school year." Why don't more people want to become teachers? Well, it's a really tough job with really low pay. Can a bill introduced in Congress change that? Teachers Would Make at Least $60K Under New Federal Bill. (I used to teach high school in Brooklyn, and that amount of money would barely cover my ongoing therapy bills associated with my 6th period class.)
+ "The United States has one of the highest teacher turnover ratios in the industrialized world. Almost 50% of teachers leave before their fifth year teaching—an astonishing statistic. This turnover means that schools constantly lose great educators, especially in the schools with the highest need. In any company, any government office—any endeavor of any kind—this kind of turnover would be seen as utterly untenable. The institutional knowledge base goes out the window. Any kind of stability or momentum is impossible. But we’ve allowed this chaos in the US education system, in large part because politicians, district officials, state administrators and voters as a whole have determined that among all of society’s pillars—city planners, firefighters, sanitation workers, water-safety officials, on and on—that among them all, teachers should be paid the least. It beggars belief." The most excellent Dave Eggers: A Note About the American Teacher Act.
4. Chop Gun
"At least one person was reported to have been rendered unconscious but all patients were awake and talking when they arrived at hospitals, he said. Patients suffered cuts, including to the head, as well as bumps and bruises. Some people were nauseous and vomited as a result of extreme motion, he said. Altogether 36 people received treatment." The holiday season got off to a scary start for passengers on a flight from Phoenix to Honolulu over the weekend. 11 people seriously injured amid turbulence on Hawaii flight.
5. Extra, Extra
The Virus: WaPo: "As the coronavirus pandemic approaches its third full winter, two studies reveal an uncomfortable truth: The toxicity of partisan politics is fueling an overall increase in mortality rates for working-age Americans."
+ Bad Actors: "The Iranian government’s campaign to crush a nationwide revolt reached one of its most famous actresses Saturday, with the arrest and detention of Taraneh Alidoosti, a beloved movie star known internationally for her role in the 2016 Oscar-winning film 'The Salesman.'" The New Yorker: Iran Detains Its Most Celebrated Actress.
+ TSA For Effort: The TSA Confiscated 6,300 Guns At America's Airports In 2022 — Most Of Them Were Loaded. It's a new record. No one keeps America down!
+ Baby Driver: "The post-Roe rise in births in the U.S. will be concentrated in some of the worst states for infant and maternal health. Plans to improve these outcomes are staggeringly thin." The Atlantic: We Are Not Prepared for the Coming Surge of Babies. (The same headline could apply to the coming GOP control of the House.)
6. Bottom of the News
I feel like a buried the lede a bit today. But better late than never. Happy Chinooka, everyone!
+ The comedy series 'Blockbuster' has been canceled after just one season at Netflix. (Be Kind, Don't Rewind...)