15 July 2014

The Hunger Cup Games

I had already traveled at least 10 miles and I had no recollection that I had traveled that distance. "Wow, I'm already in Burbank?" Momentary lapse of memory, but now I was beginning to stop more abruptly, avoiding a fender bender on I-5. I was tense and still had a ways to get home. I started to worry, the longer I was on the road. I wondered, is anyone else having the same angst as I? I listened to the play by play on the radio and heard, "Here’s the shot… Germany scores!" I looked at the other drivers, and nope, I was the only goof tossing his hands in the air in frustration. I still had at least another 30 minutes until I could watch the rest of the game on TV. Safely, I might add…

USA lost the game against Germany, but passed onto the next round, thanks Portugal. For that, I'm going to eat some linguica as a sign of gratitude. It has been a month of insanity, both for fans and soccer haters alike, aka the World Cup. That day was the last day of qualifying matches. After that it was do or die. It's a short victory for teams who pass to the next round; they knowing the next game could send them home. Like the Hunger Games, you're happy that another tribute bit the dust, but that means you're probably next. The bright side of the Cup is that everyone returns to their "Districts." That is, unless FIFA decides to change the rules.

 Sports bring out a passion in people. But no fans are more passionate than futbol fans. Okay, there's baseball, basketball and football, but when we’re talking about a world championship, futbol is king. What about the Olympics? We have our athletes, and we do go nuts when we see them take the podium, or miss the gold by a tiny margin. But, futbol in my opinion is loved by the world as much as Coca-Cola... Yes, I went there. You can play it in any place and in any conditions. All you need is your feet and a ball. Just about every kid wishes he could become the next Pele or Messi. Of course there are rivalries between each beloved Club or National team, but it's hashed out on the pitch. Personally, I'd prefer that we solve world conflicts in a futbol stadium, but if that were the case, I don't think that the USA would be where it is. 


This is Nationalism in the modern world, at least a less violent version of it. We tend to get rowdy, loud, and testy, but in comparison to the nationalism that led to both world wars, it's mild by a long shot.  But there are dark stains in even futbol’s past, which have left scars in the psyche of many fans and players alike. The Maracanazo of 1950 is the bane of Brazil's futbol existence, and the old timers haven't forgotten about it. Brazil hosted the Cup, and with its proud futbol tradition and skills, was 90 minutes away from being first world champions. The anticipation ran high, and for a very good reason. For the world, it was a time to have nations battle it out, not with guns or bombs, but with a soccer ball. Twelve years after WWII, it was the first World Cup and people were ready to come together with joy. The Brazilian team was confident in their victory. City officials had already printed victory newspapers, and the head of FIFA had a speech prepared for their win. Though Uruguay was the Olympic soccer champion of 1924 and 1928, the Brazilians were unfazed. 

The Maracana stadium had all 200,000 seats filled; at the time it was the world’s largest. The second half was hopeful, as the host team led by one. That was soon gone, when the score was tied, they were on pins and needles. To the shock of the stadium and the country, Uruguay broke the tie, wining the match and Cup. Stunned silence engulfed the Maracana. Some reacted incredibly. One fan jumped from the balcony to his death, and three others died of heart attacks shortly after the whistle signaled the end of the game. Since this was the new age of television and radio, the entire country heard or watched the humiliating loss. The mayor, the team coach, the players, and especially the goal keeper, were the recipients of the nation’s ire. Moacir Barbosa (goal keeper) was practically a villain for failing his duty. At the end of his life he was still hoping for forgiveness from his countrymen: “Under Brazilian law, the maximum sentence is 30 years. But my imprisonment has been for 50 years.” (The Maracanazo)

The famous Pelé described when he saw his country suffer a great embarrassment and defeat in home territory. "I unfortunately remember everything… I was 9 or 10, and in those days we were told ‘boys and men don’t cry.’ In that day, I remember my father crying, and so did my friends. I asked what was wrong, and he said, ‘Brazil lost the Cup, we lost the World Cup.’ That is what was seared into my mind… I didn’t know at the time, but I told him, ‘No worries Papa, I’ll win the Cup for you!’ And at 17, I was in the national team and we won the Cup.” (Pelé, translated)

People were beside themselves. Others compared the loss to that of Hiroshima or JFK’s assassination. Needless to say, this year's results didn't help.

Not all World Cups have had these kinds of dark moments, showing humanity’s better side instead. One of the exciting things about these events is the host country's inaugural/closing ceremonies. Much like the Olympics, each reflect the essence, culture, music, and joy of being the center of the sports world for a month. In these ceremonies, there are sometimes moments of either humor or spectacular achievements. Poking fun at my beloved USA, there's the cringing shtick by Diana Ross. During the 1994 Cup her "penalty" shot, though terrible, was forgotten only because she isn't a professional soccer player… 

 Or was it?...

This year's Cup held in Brazil had a unique moment for one handicapped man: Juliana Pinto (Lee), a 29-year-old paraplegic, who trough advanced technology used an exo-suit for the opening kick. The team of doctors from the Walk Again Project, whose goal is to use technology to allow paraplegics to walk, wanted to use this incredibly popular event for this demonstration. With the Brazilian government’s help, they were able to show this scientific/medical breakthrough to the world (CBS News). I thought that was way better than having J-Lo sing afterwards, in my opinion.

 Now that zee Germans have won the title, you are free from the chaos, till it picks up again in Russia. But if you still cared about futbol about as much as you enjoy stepping barefoot over Legos, it's OK. I understand if you prefer golf, football, or hockey, but you're really missing out on a great time. I’m sure this guy will still be licking his wounds… 

"Something is missing..."

This and all my posts are made possible by the tremendous help from Miss Allison Pari, thank you.
Lee, Nicole . "Watch a paralyzed man in an exoskeleton open the World Cup." Engadget. AOL inc., 1 June 2014. Web. 4 July 2014. <http://www.engadget.com/2014/06/12/paraplegic-exoskeleton-world-cup/>.

“The Maracanazo: Brazilian Tragedy and the 1950 World Cup,” Written by Matthew Schorr (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-2014/world-cup-2014-fan-guide/anglophone-version/the-1950-world-cup-brazilian-tragedy/ ‎(accessed on 04JUL14).

Pele. "El pronóstico de Pelé para la final del Mundial." Univision.com. Univision Sports, 1 June 2014. Web. 4 July 2014. <http://puertorico.univision.com/pasaporte-al-mundial/videos/video/2014-06-18/pronostico-pele-copa-mundial>.

"World Cup 2014: First kick made by mind-controlled exoskeleton." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 12 June 2014. Web. 4 July 2014. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/world-cup-2014-first-kick-made-by-mind-controlled-exoskeleton/>.

29 July 2013

Where is my Vuvuzuela?

Sports… As long as there have been males, competitions, and bragging rights, there have always been sports. From simple games to fully fledged events that involve the world (and ladies in many of these events), sports have a place in history. Let me just say that I am NOT a huge sports fan. I prefer eating some Oreos with milk in a library on a rainy day to football. To those who do enjoy playing, have a team or three, and wear someone’s jersey, more power to you. This is not a debate about which is the far superior thing. They both are necessary. In fact they are the Ying and the Yang of the mind/body. Make no mistake about it; every period of history had its jocks and geeks, whatever form they ended up taking. Regardless of which side you take, people worldwide have come together at such great moments, by something we played as children.

Jocks or Geeks: choose wisely...
 I have to take a moment and give partial credit to my dad, who inspired this post. As a Latino who grew up in a Mexican home, with frequent contact with family in Mexico, Futbol (soccer) is a huge thing. Watching Mexican clubs or the National team play in big events was fun, as well as having TONS of carne asada.

Sorry, food made me get off track here, back to the origin…

So I was at home, watching a match between two Latin countries, before Mexico played Trinidad and Tobago. I’ve been seeing more of these matches as the championship goes on, and I was reminded again of how the game brings many people together. I’m not just limiting this to football (not the American kind, which is only played in the US, lol) but sports like baseball, cycling, running…championship arm-wrestling. Sports in some way, though not always, bring the world together. How many times have we been glued to a game TV or listened to the radio (for those old school people), watching the colors, the smiles, the opening ceremonies, medal being awarded, and the upsets of whatever game is on? Have you almost lost a finger biting your nails, as you watch the two contenders’ race neck-to-neck on the home stretch? Admit it, you’ve about had a heart attack or pulled your hair out waiting for the referee’s call on a play, when it was too close to call. We’re all guilty…

I had to add this when I said "arm-wrestling" 

So what are some of those great moments? Depictions of wrestling and running throughout Europe, Asia, and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) are some examples. The Japanese gave us Sumo wrestling, (mmm sushi). The Greeks developed the original form of the Olympic Games, which today we have somewhat preserved. Egyptians had some of these games in their culture, and I believe, some sort of basketball-type game. My people didn’t fall too far behind either, with their own hoops game. The Aztecs would sacrifice the entire losing team to the gods, in a game called Ullamaliztli ("VoVatia"). It was rumored that the "balls" they used, were their enemy's heads... As humanity progressed (thankfully) of the years, the games and competitions did too. The French (they had something good going on), created the Tour de France in 1903, an odd result from the infamous Dreyfus Affair (see link below) in 1894. The modern Olympic Games started in 1896, after several restart attempts, going back to the 1600s. My favorite of all international games is the World Cup, created in 1930 and now one of the most greatly anticipated games every four years. I’ve had the pleasure to sit in the stadium where the FIRST World Cup championship game was played. The home team Uruguay, beat Argentina 4-2, thus they were the first world champions. (Queen was unavailable to play “We are the Champions” sadly.) There have been more games that have involved international players/teams, and in more diverse sports, but none have caught our attention as these.

However, there have been moments in which these games have been marred by human sinfulness. Many of the modern events mentioned above, where interrupted by both World Wars. Hate towards other competitors openly expressed such as that of the Nazis against American runner Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The sad tragedy of the 1972 Munich games, with the death of all the Israeli athletes at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. The Atlanta bombing at the 1996 Summer Games caused some panic. Most recently, the Boston Marathon bombing, has now cemented a fear permanent for all sorts of large events.

Despite these events, there have been so many moments where the human spirit to overcome adversity has shone through. How sad it would’ve been if all of these competitions had not continued after the Great War. The confidence of Jesse Owens to play showed the world that silly propaganda, the likes of which Herr Hitler tried to spread, could be proven false with his CUATRO (four) gold medals. Jackie Robinson, who we all know was the first black man to play in the MLB, persevered in such tremendous trial because of his character. (Shameless plug for “Stepping Up: A call to courageous manhood” by Dennis Rainey. There is a great chapter about him in there.) 
One of my favorite moments is from the 1968 Mexico Games, also known as “The greatest last-place finish ever,” by Tanzanian Joseph Stephen Akwhari (see video for his great response, sorry about the cheesy music). The list goes on: the 2000 Sydney Games, where both Korea’s marched into the stadium, under a single flag and a roaring crowd; the incredible performance of Romanian Nadia Comaneci in the ‘76 Montreal games, by being the first to achieve a perfect 10 in gymnastics; the father and son moment between Derek Redmond and his father, after his injury in the 400 meters in Barcelona. He earned his mug that Father’s day. I could go on and on about moments like these that show us the greatness in humanity. These achievements boggle our mind, at how the human body (which is wonderfully created) can be pushed/punished to superhuman levels. Sometimes they take our breath away, leave us in tears, shouting for joy, or pounding at a pillow in frustration, but they unite us in ways that are impossible otherwise. So the next time you find yourself at a stadium, join in the Wave, the Ol’ Chop, or pound your hands and feet to the beat of “We Will Rock You.” 

 "It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Sacrificed." VoVatia. WordPress.com, 06 FEB 2011. 

10 July 2013

You are the Oracle...

The study of history is rather simple in its explanation. Research, investigate, analyze, discover, catalog, and teach about people, places, and events. Whether it deals with periods that predate the wheel to the most recent iPhone, history is like a 7-11. It happens anywhere, to anyone, and in the most incredible ways. Of course you’ve met a person who didn’t have at least one fascinating, incredible, sad, or funny story. A grandfather who tearfully shares his combat experiences. The Chinese shopkeeper who fled his homeland 40 years ago, because of persecution. A doctor who performed surgery on a President, after an assassination attempt. The child, who is now an old man, recounting how he watched man step on the moon. Walking history books are all around us, and you are one volume more. 

All I need now is a cheeseburger hotdog...
Have you ever stopped to think, that YOU will be that grandfather or grandmother, who tells stories about your time on this earth? Stop and think about all that is occurring around you, all in such quick fashion. As of last week, Egypt is without a president, as he was given bad report card by the people. Days before that, we heard of the brave firemen lost in Arizona. These are just events that have occurred on a grand scale. There are several manners in which we are part of history, we are present at the actual event, watch it unfold on TV, newspaper, or radio, or you are the center or key player in that event. Take for example (something happy), the 1980 Olympics, AKA “Miracle on Ice” (at least for the US). In the height of the Cold War, the US and CCCP hockey teams are duking it out, and we win against the Soviet hockey machine. You have the fans at the rink, those glued to a TV somewhere watching, and the respective teams. At any given time and situation, history is being made and you are a part of the action somewhere.

As I stop to think about last month, it happened to me as well. Three weeks ago, one of my uncles passed away. As I think about his death, it reminded me in the context of this post, that this was another entry in my personal history book. For many of you, this is the same, whether it’s a good or bad event. It may be the birth of your child, graduating college, watching your favorite team win a championship, etc. These events are yours. As well as having to experience family death, an accident, or having to make the hard choice of going on a bacon-free diet *shudder*. Needless to say, these events are inescapable. 

No bacon in the universe?!? KHANNNNNNN!!!!!

Whether the event is personal in nature or it involves, literally, the whole country, we add another page to History’s records. It is sad to think that we find ourselves taking these moments for granted, with the entire world being a blur around us. I have tried to stop and savor the moment, realizing how important it will be to someone. There have been countless of moments in my life, which have stayed with me, and I hope that I won’t forget anytime soon. When I was young, it was the first memory of the Challenger exploding in 89, the Rodney King riots in LA, my grandfather’s death. As I grew older, it was signing my enlistment contract on 27AUG2001 and two weeks later, 9-11 unfolded. A year after boot camp, I’m flying over Montana on a C-9 and listening to President Bush address the nation on Operation Iraqi Freedom, about the start of the campaign. As I hear him over the speakers, I think to myself “I’m in a war…” The next month was incredible to say the least. There are many more events that you could either relate or top, but you get the point about living through history.

What I would like to encourage you folks and those in your lives, especially the younglings, is to be more aware of it. It’s one thing to rely on the video camera, internet, books, etc. another is for YOU to become these devices. Do you play music? Write a song about it. Are you a writer? A poem, book, or daily journal will do. Do you paint, draw, or take pictures? Capture it, for only you can give it life and share that moment with others who see it. I hope to one day have an ample library, with a whole wall dedicated to journals I’ve written, but I have to write. Use your imagination, be candid, and use a dictionary if necessary. Write every detail, take a picture at all angles, those moments won’t repeat themselves. (On a personal note: learn to write in cursive, using a fountain pen, it’s just beautiful. Again, it’s just me saying).  

Now to add the mining equipment...
Just think of all the means that we have available to study history or save it for future generations, something not possible in the past. There are countless people who have understood the urgency of individuals, WWII veterans for example, whose stories have not been recorded. The Veteran’s History Project is one effort by the Library of Congress to save these “pages” of history, and that’s just in this country. Many of us, including me, have relatives in foreign countries whose memories of their area’s history are important. To be able to save those tales, with any related artifacts is just precious. I’m aware that there are limitations, or in the grand scheme of things, this world will pass and all that is in it. I have come to learn, however, that history has been a unique tool in showing me that there is design and sovereignty in our brief existence.

24 June 2013

Being Neville Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain stepped down from the Lockheed Supra-Electra twin engine, turbo-prop airplane, to an actual sunny British day. He didn’t realize how the following speech would come back to haunt him, as he was all smiles from the trip he just finished. The date was 30 September, 1938 and he just arrived from Germany. At his meeting with Hitler, they had come to the Munich Agreement, in which Hitler was granted full access to the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, with British “blessing”. Hitler begun to worry several people by first building up his army, sending troops into the Rhineland, and annexing Austria (Anschluss), all of which were violations to the Versailles Treaty. Ironically, neither the British nor French had the power to do anything about the German war machine, which they believed was incapable of anything after their defeat in WWI. So in comes Prime Minister Chamberlain, whose goal is to stop further expansion at all costs. The solution that resulted only created a sense of “we just got sold out” for the Czechs. Germans who lived in Czech territory who needed “reintegration” into German care had to be sucked into the fold, along with all their homes. So with Hitler poised to just “eminent domain” it all, the British gave him the OK, as long as he pinky-swore he wouldn’t take the rest of Czechoslovakia or any other territory… Back to Heston Aerodrome, where Neville is yakking away, holding a piece of paper in his hand. The now infamous “Peace for our time” note is the equivalent of paying $10 grand up front, to have your house remodeled. Hitler pretty much laughed at the whole business, and implemented a plan hatched back in 1937 to take Czechoslovakia. In March 15, 1939 he took it and thus began the road to WWII. Remember that speech a year prior? Yeah, I think Chamberlain wanted no one to remember that day at the airfield either.

"I have Hitler's promise and the secret recipe for Coca-Cola. Truly this is peace for our time." HIP-HIP! HURRAH!!!

In the end, the total amount of casualties (military and civilian) suffered in the aftermath of appeasement was (top estimation) 70-80 million lives, or 4% of the world’s population at the time. After the War, the desire to prevent a repeat is what has driven the founding EU countries to adopt such liberal policies, which some here want to imitate. Examples of this are the lax immigration laws, incredible Muslim tolerance, and refusal to deal with foreign issues like the Iranian threat or little support in intervention (Middle East). This is the result of Idealism, which sees the world through what it should be. I like to think of it as the “Disney invocation”, where one does things and hopes that it happens, and is convinced others will follow. Unfortunately it forgets that reality is quite different and it operates on different mechanics. 

 In 2008, as a candidate for the presidency, Barack Obama called for the reduction of nuclear arms, its stockpiles, and use altogether in Berlin. His rationale “With that wall gone [Berlin Wall], we do not need to stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era.” (Bump) This idea has been repeated recently, in the same place earlier this week by the President regarding this issue. His vision of a world were these weapons, nuclear, conventional or even a proper military no longer seem necessary, are dangerous. The latest talks with President Putin of Russia are a repeat of such talks in 1938. The general amount of nuclear weapons needed to maintain deterrence, has been generally agreed to be at 1500 active and ready warheads. The numbers that Obama would like to maintain are 300 weapons. His reasoning behind this is the following: If we reduce our number, then they will follow suit because they also want to be rid of these “relics”. This same line of reasoning has been the cause for military reduction, apologies for US actions in the past, non-interference in world disputes (China-Japanese Island dispute) to name a few. The latter, is an example of reducing US world influence and power throughout the world in order to create a multi-polar world.

At the end of the Cold War, the US was the only Super-power that remained, as the Soviet Union collapsed. Due to the great influence that we possess, and none have been able to match since, the world has been shaped by US influence and domination. This has been the real reason behind the European push for a larger European Union, Chinese growth, Russian rebirth, and Middle Eastern power struggle after Saddam Hussein’s oust. The idea of sharing the wealth and responsibility of maintaining order with the world’s nations is that of ideals. The EU is Socialist entity, which is devoid of any financial, moral, or political compass to truly lead. China and Russia are engrossed at being a power at any cost. Finally, any of the MENA (Middle Eastern, North African region, I’ll be using this term often, make a note please) countries are at the core, led by a belief/political system that is Islamic, which if you understand it thoroughly you wouldn’t want it at all.

While I am not claiming that we as a nation are devoid of any faults, believe me far from it, it does have the best in mind for the world. In a fallen world, we are proof of sin’s effects, as we export sex, weapons, violence, fat (McDonalds Mmmmm!) and other such things. On the other hand, without the provision, protection, and guidance of the US, this world would still be trying to rebuild after German and Japanese aggressions. I’m just saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice, here’s my wallet and stash of Oreos, you deserve it, for being so clever… I’m keeping the bacon though!”

Exporting quadruple bypasses.. MURICA!!!

Bump, Philip. "Obama's 2008 Berlin Speech vs. Todays, by the Numbers, Words, and Themes." The Atlantic Wire. The Atlantic Wire, 19 Jun 2013. Web. 23 Jun 2013. <http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/06/obamas-2008-berlin-speech-vs-2013-brandenburg-gate-speech/66400/>.

Further reading
Obama to call for U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reduction. LA Times, 19JUN13