The Long Goodbye

As many of you have noticed, we haven’t published anything new on The Modern Spectator for quite some time. It’s disappointing to say it, but this hiatus may last through the winter, or perhaps longer. There are good reasons for this, including my classes at NYU and writings which will occasionally appear here. For now, the break has given me a chance to look back and review some of the things we’ve done over the past four years. I’ve posted above one of my favorite images, a drawing by my wife, Emily Thompson (Read the accompanying article,…

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The Good, the Bad, and the Brackets

I finished third overall in ESPN’s World Cup prediction game. I’d like to brag about it — there were more than a million entries, and I finished just one point shy of the $5,000 first prize – but I can’t. It’s not just because I won nothing for my troubles. It’s also because I didn’t try. Before filling out my bracket, I could have consulted statistics, broken down tactics, and carefully considered historic results. Instead, I just went with my first, unconsidered instincts, and vowed not to change a thing. When I did look back at my…

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Play It Again, Bafana Bafana

Of today’s two games, I was much more excited, at least soccer-wise, for the second match, France v. Uruguay. The opener, South Africa v Mexico, promised a load of hubbub and contagious sentiment, but I wasn’t expecting great on-field action. France, meanwhile, bursting with talent, was supposed to play an offensive style against a Uruguayan team poised to attack with speedy wing-backs and a pair of strikers, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who score goals in their sleep. It was going to be a doozy. What a fool I was. Never, ever count on France for entertainment…

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Karma Chameleon: Germany Wins

History repeats itself, or mocks itself, or at least that’s what we like to believe. When England’s Frank Lampard did his best Geoff Hurst impression on Sunday, slicing the ball against the underside of the German crossbar and into and out of the goal, it was hard not to think the great wheel of karma had come around to Germany’s side. In 1966, Hurst’s nearly identical extra-time goal broke a 2-2 deadlock between the countries and sealed the World Cup for England. Since then, Oxford University researchers have concluded what millions of Germans believed: Hurst’s shot never…

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Amazing! U.S. Wins

The U.S. beat Algeria, 1-0. That’s a simple sentence, but one that leaves me speechless, and crazy, so I’ll let others do the talking. First, Andres Cantor with a cracked voice, then Brian Phillips on happiness, then Josh Dean cursing with joy, and then everyone on video. On another note, I know my lookalikes are pretty far-fetched (besides Messi-Polanski), but does Diego Millito look a little like Bert? Plus, Over on Journal, I wrote about the teams with the most foreign-born players. Tweet Austin—don’t you think Diego Milito looks more like Pee Wee Herman than like Bert?…

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The Land of the Free

For various reasons, mostly unintentional, I have more than a passing familiarity with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. I know little about Slovenia, though, so when I think of that country, I imagine it as obscure, funny, and a little cartoonish, like Zizek himself. The other day when the United States played Slovenia in one of the most thrilling, excruciating games in my history of fandom, I didn’t think of Zizek at all. I was too busy standing on the legs of my barstool, screaming myself hoarse. But afterwards something bubbled up in my mind. I once heard…

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The World Cup Wakes Up

Soccer can be exhausting, watching soccer that is. If you are foolish (and lucky) enough to try to catch all the games in the World Cup, you have to stare at a television for some six hours a day, day after day, beginning in New York at 7:00 a.m. Thirty hours in, you start to get bleary-eyed and grumpy. You complain that the games are dull. You think about skipping one. Maybe Chile v Honduras? It’s on early, and it’s not exactly a marquee matchup. It is in fact the only game of the first round in…

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Why I Love North Korea

I received a text this morning from my friend Josh Dean that read, “Oh man, u like all the unlikable teams.” Josh had just learned that I was rooting for Portugal. Yesterday he discovered (firsthand in an Italian-American bar) that I support Italy. Like many American fans, Josh doesn’t like Portugal because he thinks they’re divers, and he doesn’t like Italy because he thinks they’re brutes. What I didn’t tell Josh, which might have really gotten his goat, is that part of me was rooting for another unlikable team today, North Korea, as they played the team…

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The Polanski Problem

My wife thinks Lionel Messi, the undisputed greatest soccer player in the world right now, looks like a young Roman Polanski. She loves Polanski, or his early movies at least, and when I watch Messi’s Barcelona, she pays a bit more attention than usual. “Is Polanski playing?” she’ll ask. Then Messi, as if he’s listening, will zig-zag across a minefield of defenders, the ball impossibly stuck to his feet. I call this “doing a Polanski.” I was thinking about Polanski and Messi before this World Cup and was overcome with a sudden sadness. I cannot explain it,…

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Curious Oranj

Reading Michael Sokolove’s fascinating Times magazine article on the Ajax soccer academy in Amsterdam, I couldn’t help but think of Dutch soccer as a joyless, workman-like pursuit. The creation of soccer players in the “cramped, soggy nation,” Sokolove suggests, is performed with systematic gloom. It’s odd because the Netherlands have long been known, at least stereotypically, for playing beautiful, flowing soccer, not for their efficiency. They’re famous for a system, Total Football, that is not really a system at all, but a dream. Each player should be so well rounded, so skillful, and so spatially intelligent that…

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