Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Knock-knock, lah

Singapore is a popular topic in the soccer world these days, albeit for all the wrong reasons. A still-unfolding match-fixing scandal threatens to turn the Little Red Dot into a world soccer pariah and, if that wasn't enough, the locals can't even be bothered to acknowledge their domestic league.
Fed up of playing in front of sparse crowds in Singapore's poorly attended S.League, players from Balestier Khalsa are going door-to-door to try to drum up their fan base.
"The more often the players go knocking on doors, the higher the chances of them becoming familiar with residents," Balestier chairman S Thavaneson told Monday's Today newspaper. "Who knows, they may become curious and decide to watch a game or two."
According to the article, the S.League had an average attendance of 932 last season. Why? Partly because of the Europoseurs, a problem that has plagued many an up-and-coming league and against which I have previously railed.
While Singaporeans are huge soccer fans, they are far more interested in watching English Premier League giants Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal on television rather than going to see local teams like Balestier, Woodlands Wellington and Tanjong Pagar United.
This news makes me sad. There is good soccer on display in Singapore, and the league has local players who at least are the equal of their peers in Southeast Asia. I've heard various excuses from Singaporeans about why they don't go to games -- it's too hot (Note: It's always too hot in Singapore), late kickoffs run too close to EPL games, the soccer isn't good enough, etc. All classics from the Europoseur songbook.

You know what's certain not to help things improve? Ignoring your local club and/or league in favor of teams you might get to see play in person once a decade. If you need a reminder of what it's like to be a fan, look across the strait and emulate Indonesia for a change -- those folks know how to support their club and have a good time, even if the footie isn't up to more exacting standards.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Seat back

This. Oh, so very much this. This Slate article touches on one of my top pet peeves about travel -- people who recline their seats without so much as a heads-up.
For the five minutes after takeoff, every passenger on an airliner exists in a state of nature. Everyone is equally as uncomfortable as everyone else—well, at least everyone who doesn’t have the advantage of first class seating or the disadvantage of being over 6 feet tall. The passengers are blank slates, subjects of an experiment in morality which begins the moment the seat-belt light turns off.
Ding! Instantly the jerk in 11C reclines his seat all the way back. The guy in 12C, his book shoved into his face, reclines as well. 13C goes next. And soon the reclining has cascaded like rows of dominos to the back of the plane, where the poor bastards in the last row see their personal space reduced to about a cubic foot.
Or else there are those, like me, who refuse to be so rude as to inconvenience the passengers behind us. Here I sit, fuming, all the way from IAD to LAX, the deceptively nice-seeming schoolteacher’s seat back so close to my chin that to watch TV I must nearly cross my eyes. To type on this laptop while still fully opening the screen requires me to jam the laptop’s edge into my stomach.
As the article also details, asking people not to recline their seats rarely proves fruitful. I understand why people lay back -- even if I'm not convinced it makes a flight that much more comfortable -- but it strikes me as odd that people reflexively do so the instant they're allowed, not bothering to check if their reclining will negatively impact their fellow passengers.

When I marched drum corps, our tour buses also had reclining seats. (Note: Reclining seats were the extent of the luxury on the horn bus; the Troopers, while a classy organization, were not flush with cash.) We were allowed to recline our seat, but only after saying "seat back," a phrase that was intended both as a request and a notification for the person seated behind us. To this day I still check with the person behind me on those rare occasions I do recline my seat; it just seems the natural, courteous thing to do. You don't know if that person has a hot drink or a laptop on their tray table, and a confined space 30,000 feet in the air is one of the last places you'd want to be asking forgiveness instead of permission.

A turn of the head, a short, simple request and a modicum of common courtesy. It's not that difficult and will win you many brownie points from those around you. Flying is rarely an enjoyable experience -- let's not make it more difficult for our fellow travelers.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I did Nazi that coming

Joseph Ratzinger, also known by his stage name Pope Benedict XVI, says he will step down as God's Chosen Representative on Earth at the end of the month. That's odd -- I thought a Sith lord had to be assassinated by his apprentice.

The Church is, to say the least, shocked. This year is starting out as a rough one for Catholics. First there was the whole Manti Te'o affair, then Notre Dame got demolistroyed by Alabama in the BCS title game, and now this. What's worse, this new wave of attention is reminding people of the less savory aspects of Pope Benny's tenure rather than fueling speculation over who will be the next GCRE -- the bookmakers reportedly favor an African candidate, but anyone other than an old, white dude is a sucker's bet. This Christopher Hitchens piece from 2010 has been reposted on Slate and provides some insight into the individual and institutional corruption within the Vatican.
Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church's own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated "in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication." (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism!
How best to salute a man whose raison d'ĂȘtre as Pope seemed to be to further entrench the conservative status quo -- not to mention crushing those who challenge the Church, no matter how good their intentions or reasoning -- rather than dealing with the real issues facing the Church? I can think of no better way than in song. Take it away, Tim.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Off on the wrong foot

Not fatal, but frustrating. Not devastating, but disappointing. Not crushing, but concerning. Anyone who sat through the United States' 2-1 loss at Honduras to open the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying shouldn't have been too surprised that the Americans struggled away from home. Concacaf is a tougher region than most pundits give it credit, and it's not as though Team USA has a glorious history (soccer or otherwise) in Central America.

However, it was the ways in which the United States struggled -- some obvious, some less so -- that provide cause for concern. Inattentiveness, a lack of invention and a puzzling absence of fitness combined to leave US fans what kind of Brave New World awaits under Jurgen Klinsmann's management. Almost 18 months after the German took over, it's still hard to tell.