gambitch - now available in blue
Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

The big game is over, and unfortunately our girl lost. To be fair, it was a pretty good match, and we could make all sorts of post-match analysis about what happened. But it was a good match, and let's be grateful for that.

What I really didn't like was the way my dad was reacting to the match. It appears he was seriously unpatriotic; that it was no longer just a matter of him not caring, but a case of outright non-patriotism. The cause? He seems to have a problem with the fact that every time our girl picks up a point, the crowd cheers for her. And where's the problem in that? Well, according to him, we cheer our girl when her opponent screws up. In other words, if we stretch the argument far enough, the reason our girl got so far and won the games she did was that her opponents screwed up.

Okay, fair point, there is somewhat less merit in us thriving on our opponents' errors, as opposed to making our own successes. The only thing is, what are we supposed to do about it? People make errors all the time, and there are games that are decided on errors. You can't decide head-to-head contests based on who is more excellent, particularly if you forbid the possibility of error. You can't be excellent in a field where everyone is error-free, and then just see who is more excellent. No, it just doesn't happen. Even golf is decided on who succeeds better at avoiding errors, both in judgment and in actual shot play. Chess is no different; every game is no different. You can't be error-free.

So it does greatly irk me that my dad decided to cheer for our girl's opponent (who ultimately won), just as a sign of protest to all the people who backed our girl during the game. Maybe some of what he says has good internal logic of its own, but that's not fair justification for cheering our opponents for taking our girl down. I'm usually a fair sports watcher; I cheer winners and respect those who don't manage to win, because I know both sides tried well, and because I know the result could, under other circumstances, be so different. I criticize those who don't do well, but not always in my trademark scathing, harsh burn. I do try to be more encouraging and rationalize a few things here and there.

I'm not by any means the greatest patriot, but then, when you look at the kind of family I have, can you honestly blame me?

gambitch [ 6:10 PM]

Well, this is just getting stranger and stranger.

Real Madrid buys Woodgate

I find this very strange indeed, given they have already acquired Walter Samuel early in the shopping period. They also already have Ivan Helguera, so this is very strange indeed, since they just splashed 13 million pounds on a man who has sat out much of the past two seasons due to injury.

Sharp watchers of the Spanish game have noted that of late, Helguera has been deployed in more of a midfield holding position, so that could create space for Walter Samuel and Woodgate to line up behind Helguera. On the other hand, with all the mad buys that have been going on, it does seem that Florentino Perez is hell-bent on assembling the ultimate team of Galacticos, right down to the subs' bench. Nothing else can explain why he has bought Michael Owen when he already has Raul and Ronaldo, plus two good strikers in backup. Or why unknown Nunez was allowed to leave rather than the good but nearly equally unused Santiago Solari, while Esteban Cambiasso has been sent to Italy. The only thing Real Madrid hasn't done is try to get a second world-class goalkeeper to provide cover for Casillas.

I don't yet know what Camacho is thinking of doing with the Real Madrid squad he has assembled. Definitely the squad sounds scary, but the boys in white also don't command much respect because of the way nearly everyone was bought. It's a bit like Bayern Munich, when you think about it. Bayern shops for the best talents in the Bundesliga and there is no one who can resist their chequebook. Real Madrid on the other hand shops around the world, and unlike Bayern, who have an incredibly high credit limit that is never near maxed out, Real Madrid simply have no credit limit. Yet that's why I don't respect them - they've not really nurtured that many talents who are making the current squad. In fact, they are such nasty talent hogs - just see what they tried to do with the Eto'o transfer.

Real have bought big this year - Walter Samuel, Owen and Woodgate. Obviously this has something to do with the fact they finished a dismal fourth in La Liga last season. But more than that, it underlines the kind of ambition Perez has, which may sound great, but it's close to insane. To put it in context, even Roman Abramovich hasn't been that aggressive in playing Fantasy Football. Sure, Chelsea has been buying and selling, but there's no serious attempt to go about making superstar squads. For every Robben/Duff competition they also have solid but underrated players holding first-team spots, like Wayne Bridge, or decently talented youngsters waiting to grow, like Glen Johnson.

The transfer whirlwind is just getting too mad. Am I glad that United buys sensibly.

gambitch [ 12:18 AM]

Friday, August 20, 2004

Look, I know I have been bad and have not written my views on the latest leg of The Amazing Race. Don't worry, that will come, once I get to it. I did watch it. There's just too much to make sense of and say.

Part of the reason for procrastinating on that entry is that I've been busy watching the Olympics. It's been quite an Olympics, and while I haven't managed to watch very much of it, there was no reason not to catch the badminton and table tennis games. It's a little something when we haven't picked up a medal at the Olympics in a while, and when the hype is all building up, there's actually good reason to watch those games.

So there I was, tonight, switching channels once I was done watching Space Travelers (a brilliant show by the way, maybe I should blog on that another time), and just managing to catch the table tennis games. Just thought I should say something about patriotism. I'm not exactly the fiercest patriot - I dismiss lots of the standard propaganda messages that I hear. But I am a sports lover, and the Olympics gives me a good reason to watch my own countrymen and countrywomen in action.

So there I was, not exactly biting my nails but definitely having eyes glued to the table tennis games tonight, because we have players on show there in Athens. It was a great game, and I was throwing my head back in agony when points were dropped, but ultimately I had cause to cheer as the game was won. So there I was, extremely happy that my country has a chance to pick up a medal at the Olympics. And here's a look at what my family was doing. Well, everyone was flat asleep, letting their ordinary lives run by, and my mother tried to get me to join them in the Land of Nod.

So, you want patriots in this country? You've got your work cut out.

Well, in fairness, sometimes our leaders and our press do work too hard at hyping everything up, as if everything our sportsmen do is a great achievement. I mean, sure it is, but surely there's no real need to go out there and thump your chest and blab on about it. It's great to be excited and everything, but I'm the quietly excited kind, whereas most of my family watches news as if it's just information sinking in that doesn't affect their lives. Except of course when an announcement of bird flu leading to reductions in poultry imports comes along, and my mother moans that chicken prices are going to go up in markets. In comparison, our country winning medals in the Olympics? What's that got to do with my family (except maybe me)?

Anyway, I stayed up and watched the rest of the Olympics. Like how Michael Phelps picked up another gold, and an Australian girl (I can't remember her name now) broke the American dominance for the day by picking up the 100m freestyle (was it the freestyle?) gold. And I had a pretty good look at much of the women's gymnastics all-round event. Gymnastics is one of those sports where I don't understand a thing as to scoring, but I just like watching for the beauty and the grace on offer. It's like a competitive version of dance.

Just thought I'd mention, though, I don't know why but I felt funny when I saw Chinese gymnast Zhang Nan. When I first saw Zhang Nan on TV I thought she was a teenage boy with makeup. This is not meant to cast doubt on Zhang's gender; it's just that Zhang Nan had short hair, no ponytail or anything like that, and her facial features looked a little like a shy boy. Add to that some very odd makeup (dark dull red lipstick for instance) and you could perhaps see how I might have mistaken her for a boy with makeup. No, not drag, just makeup.

Another factor - the first shot of Zhang Nan I saw, which stayed on TV for more than a few seconds, was from the shoulders up. When the camera gets a full shot of her, there's no mistake she's female - you can see she has breasts and everything (no, she wasn't caught naked, it's just the unmistakeable outline). It's funny how your eyes play these little tricks on you and your mind is made up there and then.

Anyhow, it's back to the Olympics, and more football news too. I'll follow up on The Amazing Race as soon as I can.

P.S. What's this weird headline I hear about Jonathan Woodgate possibly moving to Real Madrid? Are they insane?

gambitch [ 3:15 AM]

Monday, August 16, 2004

For the first time in a long time, I played goalkeeper in the routine Sunday morning kickabout. It was more a late switch than anything else, really - up to then I was playing defender and being very unlucky to concede a few goals due to quick-thinking opponents. Besides, I had assured myself umpteen times I was not going to play goalkeeper when I hardly had the reflexes and the willingness to dive to make a save. It also didn't help that I was playing on a street court, which introduces two problems - powerful long shots, and a cement surface.

Nevertheless, I switched, partly because the goalkeeper up to then was having vision problems. Apparently earlier in the game, before I arrived (I was a little late) someone had hit him hard enough with the ball (unintentionally of course) to knock the nosebridge off his glasses, leaving him with glasses that won't stay on properly. He didn't seem to do that badly once he moved upfield, though, and he's a decent player most of the time too. And I didn't exactly have a bad day after that switch; we played fifteen to twenty minutes easily since the switch and only conceded one goal, much of it due to good work from our defence, and in return bagged many at the other end. Aside from my rather comical attempts at delivering the ball long forward, I didn't have too much to do.

The day was rather funny, I thought I might add. One of the guys pulled up with cramp somewhere midway through a game, and a couple of guys were trying to do all the usual things to relieve the cramp. This promptly reminded us of how one of the other guys who usually comes to play tended to get cramps while playing and would immediately shout, "Don't come near me!" It sort of began to happen too often, so much so that it's a predicted event every time we meet up to play. That guy wasn't with us yesterday; it's not exactly physically possible to join us for the game when he was miles away in Beijing presenting his paper at a conference. He should be back already today, which means we'll watch him pick up a cramp again this Sunday.

On a different note, rather predictably, United lost the opening game to Chelsea. I wasn't watching the match, as I've said, partly because I was too tired. I didn't sleep particularly well for the past two nights, partly because I was getting four-hour naps after dinner. I don't make an attempt to resist sleep, since I can't really do anything productive by forcing myself to stay up (the mental alertness is just too low and it makes no sense), but it's problematic when you wake up at 10pm or 11pm, when people are going to sleep, and you're too awake. Going out isn't an option - despite the fact that I'm well past 21 years old, my parents insist I should not go out because I might get mistaken for a bad guy and get stopped by policemen on patrol. Odd reason, that, given that policemen on patrol here don't usually stop and ask for our IDs.

Anyway, I didn't watch the match, but the loss was expected. We were stripped of too many of our best players at both ends, and with only a decent midfield it's not easy to win a game against Chelsea. I'm not taking the result to heart, as I'm sure many serious watchers won't. But I can't wait for September when Rio returns. Then we can seriously start to work on kicking some blue butt.

gambitch [ 2:58 PM]


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