July 3, 2010

Bruce Jenkins gave us a look at the quarterfinals of the World Cup, that was posted on the SF Chronicle, that was posted on Wednesday, the 30th.

“No words, gestures or embraces could console Yuichi Komano, the crestfallen Japanese defender, at the World Cup. Such is the nature of the penalty shootout with so much at stake. There is no respite from the cruelty.

In the weeks to come, Japan very well might celebrate its trip into the knockout stage in South Africa, a mighty achievement for a team expected to be quickly dismissed. For Komano and his teammates Tuesday, there was only that awkward scoreline: (5)0-0(3), the type of result only an exchange of penalty kicks can produce.

Paraguay advances to the quarterfinals against Spain, which defeated Portugal 1-0 in Tuesday’s second game, and that’s an intriguing matchup for
Saturday-morning viewing . Perhaps it’s the proper outcome, considering South America’s dominance at this event and the fact that when five Paraguayans were asked to convert penalty kicks after 120 minutes of scoreless play against Japan, they did so: Édgar Barreto, Lucas Barrios, Cristian Riveros, Nelson Valdez and Óscar Cardozo, in that order, with great conviction.

So often in shootouts, though, it’s the failure that is most remembered. Someone has to miss, to break the spell and leave open the door to finality Fans around the world had become familiar with Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo, the Japanese stars who delivered stunning free-kick goals against Denmark, and the two of them delivered in the shootout. It was a miss by Komano, a rather strange choice, that signaled the end.

Komano is a brilliant defender who had sparkled on the field throughout, but in 57 games for his country, he had not scored a goal. Komano was chosen
because he’s a man of character who had given his heart and soul to the team. He delivered a hard, forceful shot, but it hit the crossbar and caromed
harmlessly away. In the crushing aftermath, Komano was barely able to stand, tears flowing down his cheeks.

Viewed as a whole, Paraguay-Japan was a highly unsatisfactory game, both teams playing far too cautiously. Paraguay can expect a more enterprising
opponent in Spain, truly a spectacle to behold with its delicate exchanges between Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, the elite midfielders, and striker David Villa, who scored Tuesday’s only goal. Only the lackluster play of Fernando Torres, one of the most dynamic strikers in the world, has prevented Spain from even further glory.

Torres, at least, remains alive. The Spanish defense effectively shut down Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined the likes of Wayne Rooney (England), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast) and Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) among world-class scoring threats who, for a variety of reasons, left only a marginal imprint on the proceedings.

The other quarterfinals:

Brazil vs. Netherlands (7 a.m. Friday, ESPN, Univision ): Impressive from the start of the event, the Netherlands kicked into a higher gear with the return of Arjen Robben, a superb striker and facilitator, from a hamstring injury. It’s not a Dutch squad without a bit of acrimony, and after a week of calm seas,
petulant Robin Van Persie threw a fit aimed at coach Bert van Marwijk after being substituted some 10 minutes before the end of Monday’s 1-0 victory over Slovakia. Van Persie has feuded with teammate Wesley Sneijder in the past, but all of this must be forgotten in a game against Brazil, which has excelled in all phases of the game so far and rates as the favorite in some quarters. (Netherlands won)

Ghana vs. Uruguay (11:30 a.m. Friday, ESPN, Univision): The U.S. team will watch in envy as Ghana competes, most likely to be outclassed by the
relentless pair of high-scoring forwards, Luis Suárez and Diego Forlán. Don’t count out Ghana, though, in the realm of inspiration, pride and home support.
Asamoah Gyan’s game-deciding goal against the Americans remains one of the tournament’s finest. (Uruguay won)

Germany vs. Argentina (7 a.m. Saturday, ABC, Univision): Heavyweight matchup of the highest quality. To an industrious mix of veterans (Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski, Philipp Lahm), Germany has added 20-year-old scoring sensation Thomas Müller and sublime midfielder Mesut Öezil, whose Turkish heritage reflects this veritable melting pot of a team, featuring players with parentage connected to Poland, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia, Bosnia, Spain and Brazil.
The Germans’ 4-1 dismantling of England was, despite that awful call on Frank Lampard’s goal, a thing of beauty.

Argentina has been unstoppable with its explosive front line of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tévez and Gonzalo Higuaín, whose four goals leave him tied with Villa
and departed Slovakian striker Róbert Vittek for the World Cup lead. The larger-than-life Diego Maradona stalks the sideline, presiding over a
powerhouse – and Messi still hasn’t scored a goal. This game has it all.”

Chris Erskine, of the LA Times, in his “Man of the House” column described a camping trip that he experienced with a group of Cub Scouts.

“In our last installment, the Cub Scouts of Pack 515 had deployed to Camp Snore-a-Lot in the mountains above Monrovia. In the middle of the night, a bear wandered into camp — a little black bear, not a grizzly. We ran the grizzles out of these parts long ago, in much the same way we rid ourselves of a vibrant middle class. SoCal no longer proved affordable.
Anyway, I’m in this big tent I bought at Sports Chalet a million years ago. During the Civil War, it had been used by Confederate officers to play gin rummy, so it’s not like it’s that old. But, like me, it’s been stitched together more than once.
When I finally crash for the evening, after a contraband beer with Joe and Ted, I look out over the camp to see the tents, all pregnant with the gasping snores
of the Cub Scout dads. Wheeeeez-zzzzzzzzz. Wheeeeez-zzzzzzzzz. One dude, I think, inhaled a picnic table.
It’s no wonder the black bear awakened. Who could hibernate with that kind of roar? At Camp Snore-a-Lot, the dads sleep at night and the bears sleep by
day. Just tradition.
So, it’s amazing I can even hear the bear rooting around in the garbage. He is relatively quiet, not what you’d expect. Most of what I know about bear
behavior comes from watching cheesy ’60s-era cartoons. In fact, most of what I know about human behavior comes from ’60s-era cartoons. So far, this cursory knowledge of things has served me pretty well.
Now, a few things race through my head as I hear the bear outside our tent door. First, that I haven’t even cast my all-star ballot yet, as I mentioned last
week. Under the new online system, you can vote up to 25 times, much like in a Chicago mayoral election. It is good to see the rest of the country begin to
think so progressively.
I also reflect on the fact that no one understands our sprinkler system the way I do. If I die, they’d have to bring in a team of Caltech whiz kids to figure out the electronic controller. They’d fiddle with it for days, curse a couple of times and stalk off. It would rattle their faith in science itself. Several of them would give it all up to become poets instead, and the world can barely sustain any more of those.
So there’s a lot at stake as this bear closes in.
How do I know it’s a bear? I just know. Raccoons tend to chatter and make lots of noise. Hobos smell like box wine. Debutantes smell like croissants. No,
this intruder is a bear.
At the campfire meeting earlier that evening, the scout leaders warned us to stash our food in the cars (we did) and our garbage in the dumpster (which we forgot). Soon, our campsite has the aroma of a freshman dorm. It smells of stale underwear and aerosol cheese.
We’re up near Monrovia, as I mentioned, which is a popular retreat for black bears. They like to lounge in the backyard pools and Jacuzzis of that nice little suburb, and when the mood hits them, they wander up into the mountains like this to remember their roots.
Since 7-year-olds rarely finish a meal unless it comes with a toy, there is plenty of grub for the bear, which seems to make it unlikely that the bear would, for example, decide to eat us.
Still, I wonder if tents should include a bear escape hatch. For instance, if the bear came through the front door of the tent, where would you go? From the
videos I’ve seen, bears’ heads tend to bob and weave (Stevie Wonder comes to mind), and I doubt you could skirt past them.
So, I sit in the sleeping bag, barely breathing, listening to the snoring from the other tents and the bear rooting through the garbage. If we were at home, there would be weapons aplenty — plastic pirate swords, battery-operated light sabers, foam nunchucks. To a 7-year-old, the Earth was made by Nerf.
Just when I conclude there is no hope and our garbage is gone forever, my buddy Charlie comes out of his adjacent tent and shakes his car keys at the bear.
I don’t know what the bear thought at this particular moment. “Perhaps he’s giving me his Lexus?” the bear probably wondered. “Or maybe he just wants me to park it for him.”
In any case, bears hate confusion. Like us, all they want is a little clarity in their lives. Rather than deal with some Lebanese dude shaking his car keys and yelling, the bear decides to flee Camp Snore-a-Lot.
“OK, back to the ‘burbs,” the bear probably thought. “It’s too scary up here.”


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