Posts tagged ‘World Cup’

Ready for the World Cup Finals

As a former hater, I have really enjoyed the World Cup this year.  I think an unsung part of why so many people have been coming around in the States is having ESPN broadcast every game, instead of just seeing two or three here.  Seeing all the games lets one start getting to know the players and the teams, develop favorites, etc.

However, like most Americans, I do find it, at best, humorous to watch folks act like they have been gut-shot every time someone brushes their jersey.  I talked to a friend of mine who used to manage NHL teams, and said that it would be funny to do a parody with ice hockey players falling and writhing on the ground every time they were touched.  There would be 10 guys laying on the ice in about 30 seconds.

Not quite the same idea, but I thought this parody was pretty funny

Corporate State and the Olympics


The most carefully policed Brand Exclusion Zone will be around the Olympic Park, and extend up to 1km beyond its perimeter, for up to 35 days. Within this area, officially called anAdvertising and Street Trade Restrictions venue restriction zone, no advertising for brands designated as competing with those of the official Olympic sponsors will be allowed. (Originally, as detailed here, only official sponsors were allowed to advertise, but leftover sites are now available). This will be supported by preventing spectators from wearing clothing prominently displaying competing brands, or from entering the exclusion zone with unofficial snack and beverage choices. Within the Zone, the world's biggest McDonald's will be the only branded food outlet, and Visa will be the only payment card accepted.

This brand apartheid is designed to prevent "ambush marketing", the gaining exposure of an brand through unofficial means. One of the best known examples of this was in the World Cup in 2010, where a bevy of 36 Dutch beauties in orange dresses provided by Bavaria beer gained considerable media attention, to the chagrin of the official World Cup beer, Budweiser. At London 2012, branding 'police' will be on hand to ensure that nothing like this happens, with potential criminal prosecutions against those responsible. Organising committee LOCOG will also take steps to ensure that no unofficial business tries to associate itself with the Olympics by using phrases like 'London 2012', even on such innocuous things such as a cafe menu offering an 'Olympic breakfast'....And it's not just London. All the venues for the 2012 Olympics will be on brand lockdown. In Coventry, even the roadsigns will be changed so that there is no reference to the Ricoh Arena, which is hosting matches in the football tournament. Even logos on hand dryers in the toilets are being covered up. The Sports Direct Arena in Newcastle will have to revert back to St. James Park for the duration of the Olympics.


Green Triumphalism

Via a reader, the cost of a few politicians deciding that there absolutely had to be an Australian-assembled hybrid.

"My wife was looking for an Australian-made hybrid car," Rudd told John Laws in March, 2007, "and I'm sure some of your listeners would have found this out "“ you can't find one.

"So, that started me thinking about why don't we have one in this country."

There are certain people from whom the phrase "that started me thinking" serves as a 150-decibel alarm. We weren't to know it at the time, but Kevin Rudd turned out to be one such bloke. Instead of settling on a nice secondhand Prius, Rudd's simple quest to find some wheels for the missus quickly led, once he was elected, to the $500 million Green Car Fund.

Why couldn't Ms Rein have been interested in something less expensive, like knitting? No, scratch that "“ once her husband "started thinking", we'd have been stuck with a $2 billion National Crochet Initiative.

Subsidies appear to amount to about $(AU)100,000 per private car sale.  This is a sort of new brand of left-progressive triumphalism that reminds me of an essay Ayn Rand wrote decades ago on statism and prestige.  These are the modern Green equivalents of the Brandenburg Gate -- they cost a lot of money, they don't really do anything useful, but everyone can point at them and marvel.

And speaking of which, our current Administration in the US in by no means immune

U.S. President Barack Obama will attend a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday for an LG Chem plant in Holland, Michigan, the company said Sunday. It is very unusual for an incumbent U.S. president to appear at such an event for a foreign company, and it is the first time for a Korean firm.

LG is investing US$300 million to build the plant which will produce batteries for electric vehicles. First-phase commercial production is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2012, and once completed in 2013 the plant will churn out lithium ion cells for 200,000 hybrid cars annually.

Ah, there Coyote goes exaggerating -- because the article explicitly says that a private company will be investing the money, so this isn't really a government project.   Ah, but read to the last paragraph

As part of efforts to revive the auto industry by bringing more green vehicles to the road, the U.S. government has lent considerable support to LG's Holland plant, including $151 million from a federal stimulus program. The Michigan state government also offered tax cuts worth $130 million, which together with the stimulus funds will almost offset LG's entire construction costs. The plant will help ease unemployment in the state by creating some 400 jobs, U.S. media reported.

So $281 million of the $300 million LG is investing is actually taxpayer money.  More brave capitalists! But fortunately we will have lots more batteries so rather than burn gasoline, electric vehicles can charge themselves from coal plants.

PS- Don't forget the jobs, though, created for the low low taxpayer cost of $702,500 each!

PS #2 - I had not noticed before I wrote it, but both of these articles also share in common the government subsidizing foreign companies to manufacture in their country, rather than producing these goods elsewhere and importing them.  This reduces the benefit of these investments even further - its pretty clear that both batteries and Prius's would have been made somewhere in the world, so they would have been available to consumers (probably at lower prices), but these investments merely were to shift production across some line on a map.

Update: John Stossel discusses another form of modern statist triumphalism -- the government-funded sports stadium

South Africa's ability to pull it all together for six weeks doesn't mean the World Cup will be a net benefit to the country in the long term. As the ESPN video below explains, South Africa's government spent $6 billion on the tournament. Tournament-related revenues are expected to fall well short of that figure. Some of the hundred million dollar stadiums built for the tournament won't get much use now that the games are over. The video points to one stadium built for the tournament which will likely remain vacant"”it sits over over slums that lack running water.

Fond memories of the month South Africa performed marvelously on the world stage are nice. But $6 billion is a lot to pay for a memory. These spectacles"”the World Cup and the Olympics"”are nearly always money losers. They're a lousy investment in wealthy countries. They're particularly garrish in countries that aren't as affluent.

Remember that Greece got the same kudos for not screwing up the Olympics, but years later it sure seems like the $15 billion that was sunk into those games by the Greek government has contributed to its financial crisis.

Glass Houses

I thought this French socialist reaction to France's World Cup humiliation, which included the team going on strike and refusing to practice just 48 hours before their make-or-break final match, was funny:

Some opposition politicians said the players' behavior represented the selfishness fostered by the governance of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been called President Bling Bling for his flashy style.

"It's all about individualism, egotism, everyone for themselves, and the only way to judge human success is the check you get at the end of the month," Jérôme Cahuzac, a Socialist Party member of France's National Assembly, said in a radio interview, according to Reuters.

Certainly no French socialist ever went on strike when other people in France were counting on them.  I kindof thought the team sucked, but in total unison and solidarity.

Penalty Kick Stupidity

Well, yet another key international soccer match, this time the most important game of all, the World Cup Finals, was decided by penalty kicks.  Penalty kicks are the most absurd way to determine a championship that I can imagine.  They are barely one step removed from a coin toss in terms of their ability to really determine who the best team is.   Its like giving up on a baseball game in the 12th inning and settling it with a home run derby.

I understand that in regular matches and probably in pool play, logistics require that games not go on for hours and penalty kicks make sense.  But by the time you get to the quarterfinals, and certainly the finals, why can't they just play the freaking game until someone wins?  That's what they do in the Stanley Cup, and in US pro football -- each have ways of settling ties quickly for regular season games, but once crunch time comes, they play until there is a winner.  In Wimbledon, they settle sets with tie breakers but come the fifth set, they play until someone wins.  Its not like the stadium is booked for anything else the rest of the day.  And do they really think anyone in the stands is going to get tired and go home?  Pro hockey fans will tell you there is no more compelling time in their sport than overtime in a Stanley Cup Final.  How great would it have been to have just left the two teams on the field until one was a winner, even if that took two more hours?  I mean, they have waited four years for this moment, they can't put in a few more minutes on the field?

As an American non-soccer guy, I have really given this World Cup a chance.  I was in England for much of the tournament, so I not only watched but got to experience some of the excitement of the populous.  And I have, excluding the silly play-acting fake injury thing, mostly enjoyed the games.  But they lost me right at the end.  Settling their once-every-four-years world championships with ridiculous penalty kicks demonstrates to me that soccer types have no respect for their own game.  After just 30 minutes of overtime, they give up on their own game and have teams play a different game to determine a winner. So if they don't have respect for their own game, why should I have any?  Americans are never going to fall in love with a game that decides its championships with the moral equivalent of a coin flip.

Update:  First, though this post was applied to soccer, its not just a soccer rant.  I went on the same rant several years ago when the Olympic ice hockey gold was awarded with a shootout.

Second, I get it that the athletes are tired.  I'm not going to put my toe in the water on the "what sport requires the most athleticism" debate, except to say that soccer is right up there, with its 45 minutes of continuous play each half.  (But I will say that, having personally played rugby for years, rugby is right up there too -- one thing soccer aficionados don't acknowledge is how much physical contact and going down on the ground frequently -- for more than just a fake injury -- takes out of you above and beyond just continuous running.)

My point is that shoot-outs are a different game - they are not real soccer.  Yes they use the same equipment and have roughly the same goal (to get the ball in the net) but by that definition "horse" is real basketball.  Anyone up for settling an NBA finals after two overtimes with a game of horse?  The beauty of soccer is in the passing and the assists, in the clever footwork, in the wing trying to use his speed to turn the corner.  Where are those in a shootout?

If athletes are getting exhausted, it just increases the likelihood that someone will score and end the game, since it is as true in soccer as any other sport that fatigue hurts defense more than offense.  And this might stop teams that play a defensive game in overtime, who are clearly playing for the shootout.

And think of posterity.  No one is going to remember this World Cup final game except to say that Italy beat France on penalty kicks.  But what if the game went 3-1/2 hours in a grueling test of endurance before France finally punched it in, all the players too exhausted to celebrate.  People would talk about the match for years.  I'm not saying you play this way for every run of the mill international competition.  But wouldn't it be nice once every four years to actually decide the championship actually playing soccer, rather than horse?

Update #2: Per a couple of commenters, nothing in this post is meant to imply that sports that are more popular in the US are not without their flaws.  Silly set-piece fist fights in hockey and the unfairness of overtime rules in football (putting too much emphasis on winning the coin toss) come to mind immediately.