Even in the dead of summer, when the sports world, at least locally, is mostly a barren wasteland and the national scene consists of baseball and the occasional golf or tennis major, it’s still possible to get lost for an entire weekend.
Last weekend was just such a case. With the World Cup, Wimbledon and LeBron James holding the stage like Tina Turner, there was plenty to distract us from real life and its annoyances like family, friends and other contrivances.
I started Saturday early in Jay, where the Huckleberry Run 5K kicked off at 8 am. I run quite a bit myself and would have entered the race but I haven’t figured out how to take pictures and run at the same time.
It was probably a good thing I didn’t. Two fellas from Fayetteville, James Karany and Godfrey Siamusiye, finished first and second. Both are older than me, with Karany being 34 and Siamusiye being 37. They ran times that were nearly seven minutes faster than my personal best. Siamuyise said afterwards he hasn't peaked yet for this year. It was more than a little depressing.
I drove by the frog jump on my way home. I almost stopped, since frogs are a sure-fire way to cheer yourself up, but then remembered that frogs are notoriously bad interviews.
I returned home to a recorded soccer match between Germany and Argentina. The World Cup hasn’t been the same since the U.S. went down to Ghana in the round of 16. But it’s still good theater. Germany and Argentina got into a fistfight in the 2006 World Cup, just after Germany won on penalty kicks.
That was just the latest in a line of games between these two that have amped up the rivalry. Mostly that’s because, like the Oklahoma-Nebraska games of old, the meetings usually have a large impact on who wins the championship. In 1990 West Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in the championship game. That was revenge for Argentina’s 3-2 win in the 1986 final, with current coach Diego Maradona leading the way.
Maradona has been one of the big stories in this World Cup, with his crazy sayings, crazy antics and crazy good luck rituals.
But for some reason I found myself pulling for the Germans. They’re a young team that wasn’t expected to do much. That wasn’t the reason I was pulling for them, though. I wasn’t really sure why, actually, until the 58th minute of the match.
That was when Argentina played the ball into the middle of the field in front of the German goal. When an Argentine player took a shot at goal, a German defender blocked it with his face. Then, instead of rolling around for 10 minutes and then being carried off on a stretcher like an Italian would, the German staggered backwards, tears undoubtedly in his eyes, and high-fived his goalie.
Germany scored three times after that as Argentina totally collapsed and quit playing defense. Miroslav Klose, who most of us have never heard of, scored twice in his 100th game for Germany, moving into second place all-time for career World Cup goals with 14.
It was not a good weekend for South America’s soccer teams, which fell apart quicker than a poorly-planned military junta on Friday and Saturday. South America entered the round of 16 with five teams, four of which advanced to the quarterfinals. Only one, Uruguay, advanced to the semifinals.
Brazil did something it’s never done before. The five-time champions took a 1-0 lead into halftime against the Netherlands. In their World Cup history, the Brazilians had led at halftime in 37 games. They had won 35 of them and tied the other two.
But the Dutch scored a fluky goal at the 53rd minute, and the Brazilians fell apart. A second goal followed 15 minutes later and a Brazilian player was later ejected as the Dutch won 2-1. Brazil, which went out in the quarters in 2006 despite having the best team in the field, has now earned the label of underachiever.
Another chronic underachiever is Spain, a team that, despite never having been past the quarterfinals in their history, was picked by many to win the Cup. Spain is the anti-Germany, a team that gets progressively weaker as the tournament progresses.
And there they were on Saturday versus Paraguay, unable to score because one, the game was not in the group stage, where the Spanish routinely beat up on the Hondurases and Chiles of the world and two, Uruguay actually plays defense. Those cute little passes the Spanish like tend to get interecepted by good defenses.
But for once Spain found a way to beat a tough opponent, scoring a goal late in the second half for a 1-0 win.
It was strange to see Germany as an underdog, as they were on Saturday. The Germans have advanced to the semifinals for three straight World Cups. Roger Federer had a streak of 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals appearances until last month’s French Open. If you were expecting him to bounce back at Wimbledon, his best and favorite tournament, you’re still waiting.
Federer needed five sets just to get through round one, then lost another set in round two before losing to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. Federer looks old now, and slow.
Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam title overall. The national press seems to have gone from asking, “What would happen if she ever applied herself?” to “Is she the greatest of all time?” almost overnight.
Apparently you can have your cake and eat it too. The Williams have spent a significant amount of time over the past few years dabbling in fashion and other hobbies and pretty much acting like they have a life outside tennis. This is much to the chagrin of the tennis experts, who would rather them be monofocused automatons. Perhaps the Williams should be more like Jennifer Capriati, the four-time Grand Slam winner who turned pro at age 14 and who was hospitalized for an overdose. Capriati has admitted to depression and suicidal thoughts due to a lack of purpose to her post-tennis life.
Talk about your lost weekends.