USA vs. Belgium: I Believe That I Can Fly

No time for a long-winded intro, let’s get down to business:

Know Thy Enemy: Belgium

Official team slogan: “Expect the impossible!”
Alternate slogan: “We’re here to eat waffles and kick ass, and we’re all out of- actually we still have a shitload of waffles.”
Exports: Beer, Chocolate, Brussels sprouts
Imports: Stolen diamonds, foreign militaries, collateral damage, other people’s disputes

Stankonia > Wallonia

Belgium is divided into two regions that sound completely made up and might as well be for all I care: Flanders and Wallonia. Flanders is basically the north half of the country, where citizens are Flemish and speak Dutch. Wallonia, in the southern half of the country is mostly French speaking and its citizens are known as Walloons. I can only assume that the Walloons travel via Lorax and and that everyone in Flanders looks like one of the Croods.

Belgium: Europe’s Wild West Saloon

Belgium has a rich military history of hosting other countries’ rich military histories. Near my office, there is a five-point intersection where a bunch of busy roads and highways come together in a five-headed hydra of overdevelopment, often with poor consequences and serious accidents. Belgium is Europe’s five-way intersection.
Sitting squarely between Germany, France and England, Belgium is known as “the battlefield of Europe,” which is not a good nickname considering Belgium’s two branches of military are “all the king’s horses” and “all the king’s men.” For centuries, warring nations have used Belgium as a neutral location for battle, so Belgium is basically the Rose Bowl Stadium, only with millions of casualties and a decimated national infrastructure.

Belgium’s National Snack Is Embarrassment

French fries are a source of national pride in Belgium, which is confusing and sad. From Wikipedia:

It is claimed that fries originated in Belgium, and the on-going dispute between the French and Belgians about where they were invented is highly contentious, with both countries claiming ownership.

Way to own your #brand, Belgium. Darren Rovell would give you a stern lecture if he wasn’t too busy masturbating to QR codes. Either way, let it be known that the Belgians lost a war over potatoes to the French, which seems impossible to do for like 10 different reasons. Also, Belgians cover their fries in mayo and that is so gross.

 

Team Outlook

They Are Good

Belgium has lost just three of its last 24 games and stormed through World Cup qualifying, finishing 8-0-2 in a group that included Croatia and Serbia. Fourteen of the 23 players on their roster played in the Champions League last season, and that doesn’t include the guys who play for Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton.
Despite a bunch of big name attacking players, Belgium is most accomplished defensively. They conceded just one goal during group play, a penalty to Algeria, and have shutout four of their last five opponents. They may have the best goalie in the world, Thibaut Courtois, who just led Atletico Madrid to a La Liga title and the Champions League final. They’ve also got a bunch of Premier League stars on the back line, including Vincent Kompany (Man City), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal) and Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Things don’t get a whole lot easier on the offensive end, where Belgium boasts a rash of up-and-coming talents. With all due respect to the German midfield and the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard is probably the most dangerous attacking player the U.S. has faced so far in Brazil. Hazard, who plays for Chelsea, can score and set up his teammates with equal precision and is going to be a handful for Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi on the flank. They’ve also got Romelu Lukaku, who scored 15 goals for Everton last season, plus a bunch of midfielders who are good. Whatever.

They Are Not THAT Good.

If you finished that last section and felt physically ill, relax. For starters, Belgium has not looked great so far in Brazil, which is an odd thing to say about a team that won all three of its group games. They played in the least talented group in the tournament, yet Russia, South Korea and Algeria each gave Belgium a handful. A plus-3 goal differential against three of the worst teams in the tournament should not strike fear into your heart. Belgium needed a 78th minute goal to beat South Korea, which lost 4-0 to Ghana and 1-0 to Tunisia in its warm-up games before the World Cup.
The Belgians are also banged up: Their starting fullback is out for the tournament with a broken leg, Vermaelen is doubtful with a bum hamstring, Lukaku’s been benched, midfielder Steven Defour is out after picking up a red card last game, and, perhaps most important, team captain Vincent Kompany is questionable to play and hasn’t practiced in nearly two weeks due to injury.
Finally, the downside to Belgium’s standing army of 23-year-old phenoms is their obvious lack of experience. The national team has not played in a World Cup since 2002; they haven’t qualified for the Euros since 2000, and only one player, 36-year-old Daniel Van Buyten, has played in a World Cup before. They also haven’t played together a whole lot- their 23 players play for 17 different European clubs in eight different countries. Whether or not teams need experience or need to play together is up for some debate, but the extreme lack of both certainly raises some fair questions about what Belgium will do when they have to play a good opponent in unfavorable conditions.

They Are Ugly.

First of all, there’s Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini, who is the nightmarish hybrid of Dustin Diamond’s and a Bond villain:

Pictured: The last thing you see before you die.

Pictured: The last thing you see before you die.

Fellaini, however, thinks otherwise, and once told reporters “I know I’m hot,” so hot that he requested a transfer from Everton because he was being swarmed by women wherever he went: “I am living in Manchester now, because in Liverpool, the women were crawling for me,” Fellaini said, whilst protesting too much. Fortunately for Fellaini, this bothersome adoration from females has not extended to Manchester, where he has scored zero goals and is generally hated by all United supporters so, problem solved!

Second, the fans have dubbed manager Marc Wilmots, “Das Kampfschwein” — which translates as “war pig” – as well the “Bull of Dongelberg,” which sounds like the formal title of a porn industry executive.  I must admit that warpig is a pretty awesome nickname; and it’s damn sure better than Marc Wilmots. Still, that’s a bold title for a guy who backed out of a warm-up game against the U.S. at the last second.
That’s right, Belgium and the U.S. were supposed to play a friendly behind closed doors upon arriving in Brazil last month, but the Belgians cancelled because of “fears of traffic.” Traffic, I can only assume, is a  Belgian euphemism for “Kyle Beckerman.” WARPIG IS SHOOK.

Then there’s Hazard’s penchant for kicking children in the ribs on national television:

 

Plus Adnan Januzaj flops a whole lot:

 

And Kevin Mirallas is a shithead:

On the opposite side:
Life:

 

Liberty:

Pursuit of Happiness:

Get em, TED!

 

And of course, Mike Tyson:

Prediction- USA 2, Belgium 1.

BRB, gotta go watch this 8 more times and run through brick wall. GO GO U-S-A!

USA vs. Portugal: Welcome to the Jungle

Artist's rendering of USA vs. Portugal via.

Artist’s rendering of USA vs. Portugal. via.

Much has been made of the brutal travel schedule and sub-optimal playing conditions at the World Cup. The U.S. Men’s National Team will travel over 9,00 miles (more than any other team- thanx FIFA!) during the group stage, traversing multiple time zones and varied climates. Nearly every team has been put in this situation though – England, for example, played its first game in blistering tropical conditions then kicked off against Uruguay 5 days later with the players asking for gloves to keep warm (shocking that the team that forgot to cover Andrea Pirlo and Luis Suarez was unprepared).
No venue poses a greater challenge to the players than Arena Amazonia in Manaus, which sits square in the middle of the world’s densest rainforest, a lengthy plane ride away what the rest of the world would consider an ideal place to live, breath or most all, play 90 minutes of soccer. Playing in Manaus is like traveling 7 hours to go run wind sprints in a sauna full of cocker spaniel-sized insects. That’s the environment in which the U.S. and Portugal will square off this evening, and for the Americans, it couldn’t be better.
On a level playing field, in optimal conditions, Portugal would probably beat the U.S. 6 or 7 out of 10 times. Fortunately, this is not a level playing field. In horrid conditions, that equation is dramatically altered, with fortune favoring the team that can adapt and endure and survive, and that’s where one other variable comes into play: experience. The ethos of this American team has been forged over time in CONCACAF, the unlicensed bare-knuckle boxing arena that doubles as the America’s qualification group. Offering wildly varied levels of competition, CONCACAF has commonly been viewed as a detriment to the U.S. team. The unique, bruising style of play, unconventional playing conditions and inconsistent refereeing in CONCACAF left the US ill-prepared to face the polished European talent and tactics in world tournaments, until now.
Preparing for the World Cup by playing CONCACAF games is preparing for the NBA season by playing on the And1 MixtapeTour, but all of a sudden, the NBA has found itself hosting a streetball tournament. There’s a reason why Mexico, the US and Costa Rica are 4-0-1 so far in Brazil: Because the World Cup has suddenly become a deluxe version of CONCACAF qualifying (in fairness, the fourth CONCACAF team, Honduras, is 0-2, but they suck a lot). It’s the same reason why South American teams are thriving and the same reason why no European team has ever won a World Cup in South America. There environmental factors – travel, climate, playing conditions, refereeing… – literally and figuratively alter the playing field, and those that can’t adapt, die.
Manaus takes all of those factors and cranks them up to 11. It’s going to be hell for the players, but having emerged victorious after a lengthy campaign in the CONCACAF underworld, the U.S. is used to hell. In a routine span of CONCACAF qualifying, the U.S. will play 8,000 feet above sea level in the throat-choking smog of Mexico City, then in the equatorial humidity of Honduras, then a home game in a blizzard in Denver, then back to Costa Rica to play on shoddy turf in front of thousands of fans separated by refugee camp-style barriers to prevent them from storming the field, then finally in Panama where their bus will be pelted by rocks and glass bottles, and where the unfortunate player assigned to corner kicks will keep an eye out for water balloons full of piss getting hurled at him. In short, Manaus is just a callback to the hot, sticky, ugly world of CONCACAF qualifying, and Portugal? Portugal is soft. Portugal ain’t about that life.

Portugal: “Caution, highly flammable.”

I’m not saying that the Portuguese team represents everything that’s wrong with soccer; I’m just saying that every negative stereotype people associate with soccer accurately applies to the Portuguese team: they’re dirty, they flop, they complain incessantly, they throw tantrums when things don’t go their way, they’re often incredibly boring to watch, and they apply enough pre-match hair gel to grease down a beached whale. Strike a match within 50 feet of that much hair product and you’ll start a fire that’ll burn down the Amazon. They’re awful, and when things don’t go their way, a-la the Germany game, they’re impossibly, exponentially worse.

Portgual: The Man.

RonaldoThey say attitude reflects leadership, and no player is more representative of the Portuguese brand of hatefulness than Cristiano Ronaldo, the team’s captain and the world’s second best player. Ronaldo is a dynamic talent and a freakish athlete and, frankly, an uncomfortably good looking human being, but we came here to bury Caesar, not praise him, so break out your shovels. If you like Alex Rodriguez, but wish he was more narcissistic, Cristiano Ronaldo’s your guy. He’s soccer’s version of Kanye West – wildly talented at his craft, and a materialistic, vapid, abrasive, self-obsessed douche in every other aspect of life.
Among the many, many reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo is eminently unlikable, let’s name just a few:
-He told the media in 2011 that people hate him “because I’m rich, handsome and a great player. There’s no other explanation.

-He has an ongoing feud with legendary and beloved striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy, which began when they got into a fistfight while training together as teammates at Manchester United and continues today.

-Google Cristiano Ronaldo “scandal” and you get everything from orgies with hookers and teammates to corrupt Ballon D’or voting. Even with the generous curve for acceptable behavior that gets applied to European soccer stars, Ronaldo has been connected to one hell of a lot of bad headlines.

-Ronaldo’s Twitter bio is just a privacy policy, which is lamest thing I’ve ever seen:

#NERD

#NERD

And if there’s any lingering doubt as to why Ronaldo sucks, here’s one more: Because Joe fuckin Biden said so. Biden to a Brazilian newspaper this week:

“I think he’s overrated. I think he’s given more credit than he deserves. Look, I’ve watched him play before. When he was at Manchester United, and now with Real Madrid, and in the 2010 World Cup, I’ve seen Ronaldo play. And I think, before you can call a player `great’ or whatever, he needs to stay on his feet, and not dive every five seconds. I call him `Tuna Man.’ `Cristiano Tunaldo,’ because he flops around on the pitch like a fish pulled out of water. It’s uncalled for. So yeah, I think team USA is going to give them a run for their money.”

“Tuna Man.” That’s a sick (and accurate) burn delivered direct via Air Force Two. Suck it, Tuna Man.

BIDEN'D. Deal with it, Tuna Man.

BIDEN’D. Deal with it, Tuna Man.

Bury This Team At Wounded Knee.

After just one group game so far, casualties abound for both squads. The US team lost one of its most important players in Jozy Altidore, who’s probably done for the tournament, and Matt Besler and Clint Dempsey will both play through injuries sustained against a physically domineering Ghanaian side. But the U.S.’s IR list is nothing compared to the utter disaster Portugal sustained at the hands of Germany in their 4-0 loss. Not only did Germany win that battle, they looted the town, burned the churches, kidnapped the women and children and slaughtered the able-bodied men. With Ronaldo already banged up with a significant and much-obsessed-over knee injury, Portugal lost two of its best players for at least the rest of the group stage, had their most important defensive player, Pepe, get suspended due to a stupid, textbook-Pepe red card, and potentially lost a host of other injured players, who are all game-time decisions today. Portugal’s injury report reads like the final dispatch from a doomed round of Oregon Trail: “Bruno Alves has diphtheria, Fabio Coentrao died of malaria, Ronaldo has dysentery, Pepe was captured by natives…”
The injuries also forced an already damaged Ronaldo to play 90 minutes on his bum knee – (well, “play” might be overstating it.) He’ll play tonight, but Portugal could very well be going into the game without their top striker, starting goals, and three of the four members of their back line. Lesson learned: don’t ever fuck with Ghanaian witch doctors. 
While Altidore’s absence will raises a number of personnel and tactical questions to which Jurgen Klinsmann may or may not have answers, Portugal finds itself at the bottom of Group G with only a handful of guys healthy enough to dig them out. The question is: Will the loss of key players, the low morale, and the crap playing conditions cause them to fold, as it did in the second half against Germany, or will they circle the wagons and fight their way out of the corner with the second best player into the world leading the charge? We’ll see, but we do know that the first 20 minutes of the game will go a long way to determining that answer. If the US can get a goal, or just frustrate and physically impose their will on a broken opponent, the Portuguese might well finish the job themselves.

Know Thy Enemy:

Portugal’s international achievements through history:
1. Discover the New World
2. Conquer foreign lands
3. Irresponsibly give away all foreign lands
4. ????
5. Bankrupt the entire country.

Portugal: Even their animals are boring.

BOW BEFORE THE PORTUGUESE MAN O' WAR.

BOW BEFORE THE PORTUGUESE MAN O’ WAR.

The nation’s eponymous invertebrate, the Portuguese Man O’ War, boasts a pretty badass name for being a big brainless idiot that floats around aimlessly for its entire existence. It’s just a stupid blob of nothing that happens to have great branding. Fitting that a nation that hasn’t won a war in 500 years is the namesake of a creature that’s only harmful when it’s being stepped on.

 

Portugal: Spain’s weird goth roommate. This is an actual direct quote from a website about Portugal:

“Fatalism is an essential trait of Portuguese culture. Fado, as the Portuguese call it,…has given rise to the eponymous music genre, characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. Fado has been recognized by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011.”

I don’t even have a joke for that. Portugal sounds awful.

 

Portugal: Where domestic battery gets its own national holiday. From the same website:

The Festa de São João do Porto, held on the night of 23 June, is one of the liveliest celebrations in the country. The tradition, which has its roots in pagan courtship rituals, requires participants to hit attractive girls on the head with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers.

That just sounds like the first half of every Popeye cartoon. The Italians are so mad they didn’t think of this holiday first.

…And honestly there’s nothing interesting about Portugal, unless you find it fascinating that 70% of the world’s corks come from Portugal. That’s among the top 3 facts about Portugal on every website I’ve gone to. Corks. Half the globe once belonged to the Portuguese. They had Vasco de Gama and Magellan, and today’s they’re just a bunch of weirdos who write emo songs and chase women around with plastic hammers and brag about how many corks they make. Portugal is depressing. You know what’s not depressing? AMERICA.

TEXAS, BITCH

 

AMERICA.

America 3

Just facts y’all. via

AMERICAAAAAA

Prediction: America 3. Portugal 1.

USA vs. Ghana: Moment of Truth

Nemesis. That might as well be what it says across Ghana’s jerseys when the U.S. takes the field this evening in Natal, Brazil. The last two World Cups ended with a shell-shocked U.S. staring at Ghana’s tail lights and wondering what the hell just hit them, and the stars have aligned to give Ghana a chance to do one better tonight by ending America’s World Cup before it ever really begins. That’s one possible outcome tonight. But, no. 

Not happening.

Not after a revolutionary new coach took the reigns and turned American soccer on its head; not after the U.S. beat Costa Rica in a blizzard then proceeded to bury just about every CONCACAF opponent who stood in its way the rest of World Cup qualification; and not after an influx of new recruits and foreign reinforcements combined to form quite possibly the strongest team the United States has ever taken to a World Cup. 

In any great Greek epic, Star Wars movie or Wishbone episode, the hero cannot achieve glory until they defeat their nemesis. Today, the US has its chance, and everyone knows it. Everyone knows that America’s only path of escape from the Group of Death starts with a win today in Natal. As with the prior two meetings with Ghana, this represents a seminal moment for U.S. soccer; one that – for better or for worse – will define the way we view this team and this coach. Win tonight, and history gets rewritten. Win tonight, and vengeance is ours. Win tonight, and anything is possible.

 

Alright, preview time. HIT THE MUSIC:

Uniforms:

USA: Firecracker Popsicles crafted into shirt form.

Ghana: “2014 Miami Heat Three-peat” t-shirts and other erroneous championship apparel.
Advantage: AMERICA

Tactics:

Ghana: Defend in numbers then break out on the counter-attack.

USA: The Roosevelt Corollary.
Advantage: AMERICA

National Anthem:

Ghana: “God Bless Our Homeland, Ghana

USA: “The Star-Spangled Banner,” also, this.
Advantage: AMERICA

Traditional cuisine:

Ghana: Anything

USA: Everything
Advantage: Tie, just kidding AMERICA

Intangibles:

Ghana: Recent history, also, witch doctors.

USA: American exceptionalism, freedom, The Rock, military supremacy, Starbucks…pretty much everything cool happens to be American. Those are just facts, y’all.
Advantage: AMERICA

George Washington…

Ghana: did not found Ghana.

USA: founded America.
Advantage: AMERICA

Key Players for Ghana:

Kevin Prince Boateng: Here’s everything you need to know about this man’s decision-making skills: His middle name is Prince and instead he goes by “Kevin.” Simple idiot WITCHA NON-REGAL ASS.

Asoamoah Gyan: Notable for being the first man to launch a potential game-winning penalty kick off the crossbar and into the thermosphere in a World Cup quarterfinal.

Michael Essien: The former Chelsea star was last seen being bludgeoned to death by the Smoke Monster.

Wakaso Mubarak: According to his hairstyle, Mubarak is a crazy person.

Key Players for the USA:

h/t- http://bit.ly/1qWdPvx

h/t- Twitter

You know the stars: Clint Dempsey is like Landon Donovan plus TJ Oshie to the power of General William Tecumseh Sherman riding a giant bald eagle. Michael Bradley is a locomotive that became self-aware and learned to shoot laser-guided soccer balls. Jozy Altidore is soccer’s answer to Mt. Helena, an unstoppable force of nature that is dormant pretty much all the time. Tim Howard made Tourette’s cool – ’nuf said. But what about some of the lesser known players who are key to US success?

Mix Diskerud

Pictured: Mix Diskerud

Mix Diskerud: Born in Oslo, Norway, Diskerud’s mother hails from Arizona, though it is his father, Odin, of Asgard, who has had the most pronounced impact on his life. Diskerud has spent much of professional and personal life pillaging his way across Scandinavia, Greenland, Nova Scotia and Canada, leaving a trail of smoldering bodies and decimated villages in his wake. Diskerud’s Viking warpath now continues in Brazil, where he won’t be satisfied until the Amazon River runs red with the blood of his enemies, or until the US gets out of its group. Strengths: Marauding midfielder; bloodthirsty scorer; will torture defenders long after the game is over. Weakness: Penchant for red cards due to use of battle axe; horns on helmet occasionally deflate ball when going for headers.

Aron Johannsson: Born in Alabama, the 23-year-old Icelandic striker has had an interesting road to Rio. Once a diminutive but eager young athlete, Johannsson became a super soldier and led the U.S. to victories over Germany and Hydra in the 1940s before disappearing deep in the arctic waters of Iceland after heroically saving New York City. Johannsson was all but forgotten until coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents discovered him and nursed the fallen hero back to health. Strengths: Model American, plays like a far younger than his age would suggest, can outrun most vehicles and/or defenses. Weaknesses: Does not understand references to events that occurred after 1946.

Graham Zusi: The bro-flowed midfield star for Sporting Kansas City is already a living legend in the state of Kansas or Missouri, having led his team to an MLS Cup last season over Real Salt Lake, something Lionel Messi has never been able to do. The four-year pro has already been named to the MLS all-star game twice – two more times than Cristiano Ronaldo – and has scored 17 more MLS goals than Luis Suarez and Didier Drogba, combined. Zusi also starred in college at the University of Maryland, where his Terrapins won two NCAA championships — more than double the number of NCAA championships won by Brazil – and he graduated from Maryland with a degree in Criminology in 2008, something no Premier League player has ever accomplished in any year.

Fabian Johnson

Pictured: Fabian Johnson’s dad

Fabian Johnson: Johnson is one of several American players who grew up in Germany, having been born to a U.S. serviceman and a German mother. “NOT FAIR!” other countries stupidly proclaim when pointing out the influx of Germans on our U.S. roster. You know how many teams would be comprised of Germans if it wasn’t for patriots like Fabian Johnson’s dad? ALL OF ‘EM. Did Fabian Johnson’s dad (that’s Mr. Johnson to you) want to be in Germany? No. But he went there to liberate Europe, kill Hitler, and preserve freedom as we know it, and guess what? He happened to have a child while he was there; a child who would never know tyranny or genocide thanks to the bravery of Allied Leaders like Eisenhower, Churchill and Fabian Johnson’s dad. Would you prefer Mr. Johnson stayed home and let Europe be overrun by a genocidal army? No, you wouldn’t. Fabian Johnson’s dad is the reason why you and I are speaking English today, and you should show some respect.

 

Prediction:

I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN.   Enjoy the game y’all. ROCK FLAG AND EAGLE.

 

World Cup Preview: Group B

With Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia, Group B is fun as hell. You’ve got the dominant Spaniards, the wildly unpredictable Dutch, the attack-minded Chileans and, well,  Australia – the Aussies are always a good time, and hey, they won’t win but they’re probably gonna punch a couple people!

Match to Watch: Netherlands vs. Spain: One country that’s full of windmills versus another that worships a fictional character who waged war against them. It’s a rematch of the 2010 World Cup, and…I don’t really need to explain why you should watch this, right?

 

Spain

Spain-National-Team

Official slogan: “Inside our hearts, the passion of a champion.”

Alternative slogan: “We could win this whole thing playing hungover, and we probably will.”

Most popular male porn star: Dong Quixote

Alternative energy: Target of national military campaign since 1615.

National pastime: Cirrhosis

Most popular artist: Pablo Picasso, whose style of modern realism captured the outbreak of mishapen eyes and triangular facial features that plagued mid-20th century Spain.

Exports: The letter S.

Importa: The letters “TH,” financial assistance

Color me shocked that a nation that drinks, eats and sleeps like a pregnant black bear is struggling economically. The average Spanish workday starts at 10:30 sharp; workers then take 18 cigarette breaks, then head out for a two-hour lunch at 1pm, followed by an arduous hour of surfing the internet until company happy hour starts at 4pm. Company happy hour is traditionally followed by several other happy hours, a bar crawl, Tuesday night trivia, wine tasting, a beer pong tournament, cocktail hour then a 9 course small-plate dinner at 11:30pm followed by after-dinner drinks.

Outlook:  There’s a pervading belief that the Spain’s steamroll through international competition is slowing down, based on their 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup and Barcelona’s relative struggles over the past two seasons. Spain are showing signs of slowing down in the same sense that an asteroid the size of Greenland will show signs of slowing down as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and destroys humanity and organic life as we know it. Spain is less of a soccer team, and more of a standing army of otherworldly midfielders who would start for 99.9% of teams that have taken the field since soccer was invented 6,000 years ago by the Israelites (that might not be right).  Underestimate them at your own risk. UPDATE: I AM DUMB.

Tactics: Spain plays a brand of soccer that is paradoxically beautiful and boring for spectators, and it’s the tactical equivalent of Chinese water torture for opponents. They pass and pass and pass and pass, then pass 20 more times, then pass back to the goalie, then start the whole thing over again until the defense is mentally and physically worn down, then they score with one of the 96 world class talents on their roster. On one hand, Spain’s renowned passing and possession abilities are a sight to behold; on the other, their 90-minute long game of intrasquad Pong can get monotonous, especially when the players seem entirely ambivalent about actually attempting to score.  Watching the best players in the world play keep away for interminable stretches is a lesson in potential energy. That is, of course, until the defense breaks down, which it almost always does, and suddenly it becomes kinetic energy, and suddenly the Spanish are up 2-0, because they’re just that good. Spain’s like a serial killer that toys with its victims for hours, bludgeons them to death,  then draws a dick on their forehead because “por que, no?”

 

 

Netherlands

Netherlands v Slovakia: 2010 FIFA World Cup - Round of Sixteen

Official slogan: “Real men wear orange.”

Alternative slogan: “These colors do run. DO NOT WASH WITH WHITES”

Imports: Bachelor parties, college students, the recently divorced, people who just need a fucking break from it all.

Exports: Chlamydia, fictional stories about how you totally visited Anne Frank’s house, horrible music.

Disgusting national cuisine: Herring with raw onions and pickles. Every year, the Dutch consume more than 12 million kilograms, which converts to approximately 3.5 billion tons of pickled herring. That’s way too much pickled herring.

Hilarious national cuisine: Stroopwafles, stamppot, hutspot, bitterballen…the list goes on and on. Every Dutch word sounds like dialogue from “The Sims.”

Munchies-est national cuisine: Hagelslag, otherwise known as buttered bread covered in sprinkles. That is a national snack forged in the mind of a person who has smoked entirely too much legalized marijuana. And yet…I WANT IT. Hagelslag is actually a very common food in the Netherlands, which makes me think that the Dutch’s perception as highly educated, progressive health nuts is way off the mark. Can you imagine sitting down to a business lunch with your boss like, “Oh you’re getting the 8oz porterhouse a glass of Merlot? I’m gonna go with a piece of white bread covered in butter and rainbow sprinkles because I have the palate of a four-year-old and the self-discipline of a cocker spanial.”  Also, the sprinkles themselves are called “hagelslag,” which literally means “hailstorm.” That’s a pretty badass way of referring to a rainbow colored dessert topping marketed exclusively toward children everyone else in the world.

Most popular musical “artists”: DJs Armin van Buuren, Tiësto and Afrojack, who together form the musical Axis of Evil. For decades, house music was just something that happened to be playing in the background while you were doing drugs in an abandoned warehouse. Basically, it was a dog whistle for people who wanted to purchase Ecstasy. But now, sober, grown adult human beings listen to it while driving to work or going to the gym or doing all kinds of things that you don’t do while tripping balls and it’s confusing and weird. House music is a plague and people who listen to it are weirdos and I blame the Dutch for all of this.

Unpopular opinion alert: There’s no reason to root for the Netherlands; in fact, you should hate them. Despite their perception as a fun, creative team, they’re kind of awful. There are at least three reasons for this:

1) Take everything people hate about soccer – the flopping, the whining to referees, the dickish behavior – multiply it by five, and put all those qualities in the body of a 60-year-old man, and *VOILA* you have Arjen Robben. Arjen Robben is the worst.

2) Nigel De Jong, better known as the first player to ever attempt to gore another human being – Xabi Alonso – during a World Cup final. De Jong is like a goon in hockey, only worse because, you know, no one gets to punch him. Fun fact: No matter who your favorite player is, there is a 40 percent chance that De Jong has attempted to end his career by sliding studs up into his ankle. It’s kind of his thing

3) So Robben is repulsive and De Jong is morally bankrupt, but two bad apples don’t spoil the bunch, right? Well, they may not be a whole lot of fun to watch. They’ve got an alarmingly young defense comprised mostly of players from the high-scoring domestic Dutch league, which is like the soccer equivalent of the MAC in college football, so the fun, attacking soccer they played in 2010 may be a thing of the past. If the Dutch team that showed up and got annihilated at Euro 2012 shows up, things could get ugly.

On top of that, their coach, Louis Van Gaal, is set to become the next manager of Manchester United after the World Cup, which isn’t explicitly bad I suppose, if you’re into that sorta thing. Plus, Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, the other two stars, have a long-running feud and may or may not still hate each other, especially after Van Gaal stripped Sneijder of his captaincy and gave it to Van Persie. So, if the Dutch players don’t even like the Dutch players, why should you? UPDATE: I AM REALLY, REALLY DUMB.

Chile

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Official slogan: “Chi chi chi! Le le le! Go Chile.”

Alternative slogan: “We’re just Dollar Store Argentina, but Argentina’s really good!”

Chile is the country that your social studies teacher never quite had time to cover. It’s a huge country with a rich history that you and I will never know about unless that history happens to get stuck in a mine 4,000 feet under the Earth’s surface. So let’s make some sweeping generalizations based off everything I know about Chile: It is inhabited by several hundred million sea bass and led by dictatorial bassmaster Augusto Pinochet. It has a huge mountain range that’s named after a terrible candy, and it sometimes it has earthquakes. Did I miss anything? No? Great.

Why you should root for Chile part 1:

When life hands you lemons, and you have nothing to eat but lemons while trapped underground for 70 days, make an amazing World Cup video.

Why you should root for Chile part 2:

There’s nothing better than a good chant. It makes everything more fun, and whether watching La Roja play, or pounding Natty Lights in a dimly lit bar, or completing that annoying spreadsheet at work, it’s always a good time to scream CHI! CHI! CHI! LE! LE! LE! VI-VA CHI-LE! Also, their fans are awesome.

Why you should root for Chile part 3:

 

Arturo Vidal. The 27-year-old Juventus midfielder is awesome, and he’s poised to become the breakout star of the World Cup if Chile can advance out of their group. On top of Vidal, they’ve got a fleet of talent from across Europe, led by Barcelona winger Alexis Sanchez, who can be electric with the ball at his feet.

Why you should root for Chile part 4:

Tactics. Chile plays some balls-to-wall, attacking soccer. Whereas teams even great teams like Spain and Netherlands will park the bus and put the offense in neutral if they’re ahead, manager Claudio Bravo is like Dennis Hopper in Speed. Not only is he not parking the bus, he’s blowing the bus up if it goes under 55.

Australia

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Official slogan: ”Socceroos: hopping our way into history!”

Alternative slogan: “Socceroos: We taught 11 kangaroos how to play soccer and now you’re all fucked”

Socceroos is dumb nickname. If you’re going to open the animal kingdom up to soccer puns, you can’t settle on Socceroos. For one, replacing “kanga” with “soccer” is unspeakably lazy, and two, Australia is home to like 98 of the 100 deadliest creatures on earth. Give me the SOCCERDILES or SOCC-NADO or 11 HORSEMAN OF THE AUS-SOCCERLYPSE. Nope. They picked Socceroos, which sounds like a show on Sprout.

Have you ever wanted to watch a kangaroo get shot with a rocket launcher? Well here’s your chance. Unfortunately, the Aussies got handed easily the toughest draw in the tournament, so it’s not worth spending a lot of time on them. Australia will honestly be happy to come away from Brazil with a couple goals scored, but that’s not important because Australia’s not here to win the World Cup. The Australians are in Rio for the same reason that Australians are anywhere at any given time: to drink, and to give their countrymen a reason to drink. If you love Spain’s unslakable drinking habits but hate all that culture and sophistication, Australia’s the country for you. Their first match kicks off at 8:00am in Sydney, which is a bit late in the day for them to start drinking, but they’ll persevere, because that’s what Australians do. Australia’s only hope of advancing is if the stadium’s roof collapses onto the field during today’s Spain-Netherlands game, which, coincidentally, already happened once!

Australia’s official World Cup song is all about “owning the night,” which honestly is perfect since they are going to shellacked by the rest of their group during the day, but they’ll have their revenge at the bars come nightfall. When it comes to late-night World Cup carousing, the Aussies are the Brazil of Brazil.

 

World Cup Preview: Group A

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IT’S HERE. IT’S FINALLY HERE. The World Cup starts today, and boy am I jazzed, you guys. It feels like Christmas morning, if Christmas was celebrated in secret and you got fired if your boss caught you opening your presents. This is the first World Cup during which I’ve been gainfully employed, and lemme tell you something you already know- it’s awful. In 2010, I was more or less unemployed, unless you count daily trips to CoinStar as a profession, and yet I had the time of my life. Being unemployed during the World Cup is like having your home destroyed by a tornado, then finding an original draft of the Magna Carta buried in the wreckage. I’ve spent the last four years trying to scheme up a way to quit my job just before the start of this World Cup, but alas, it’s gonna be a month of long lunches, “car trouble” and stern talking-to’s from my boss. One of my coworkers shattered two bones in his leg playing basketball last week and now he’s basically immobile for the next four months. SO LUCKY. Why didn’t I think of that?
Over the next few days, I’ll be rolling out a preview of each group in the World Cup, starting with Group A today. Occasionally amusing, seldom insightful and always long-winded, it’ll be as if Bob Costas is personally guiding you through Brazil, only with more dick jokes. This was originally going to be an e-book, which I started working on about 8 months ago, but shockingly, I was unable to write, design and learn what the fuck an e-book is while also working 80 hours a week and hooking on the side to cover my rent, so instead you get this preview. As a result, the team entries are wildly inconsistent in length and content and it might, at times, read like a random and hastily assembled collection of scraps pasted together like a ransom note, or a Brazilian soccer stadium. Anyway, I’ll post previews for each group over the next few days, then hopefully put out a semi-daily recap/preview throughout the entire World Cup. LET’S DO THIS.

Group A

Brazil


Brazil
Official FIFA slogan: “Brace yourselves! The 6th is coming!”
Alternative slogan: “Bless this mess, and pardon our protests.”
Population: 198 million
National anthem: Hino Nacional Brasileiro
National anthem of elevators: The Girl from Ipanema
Scarcest natural resource: Surnames
Best use of unnatural resources: Transforming a raw sewage dump into an Olympic watersports venue with literally no effort!
Worst national disaster: The final scene of Fast Five
Foremost domestic hacking group: Mononymous
Team nickname: Seleção Canarinho (Canary Selection), but they simply go by Seleção, because we all know that “canary” requires far too much effort for Brazilians.

In case you haven’t noticed, Brazilians are into the whole brevity thing. For a nation with shockingly high unemployment, Brazilians really seem to be in a rush to shorten words and get on with it. Brazilians took a page from the XFL playbook by adopting nicknames as early as the 19th century, and its now a defining cultural tradition.

There are great ones, like Hulk, Pato, Pitbull (DALLE), Kaka, Fred, Didi, Dunga, Vava and Cafu.

There are animal-inspired ones: Pato (duck) Pavao (Peacock), Cegonha (Stork), Ratinho (Little Rat/Mouse), Aranha (Spider) or Jorge Prea (Guinea Pig).

And there are terrible ones: Cocada (Coconut candy), Eduardo Arroz (Rice), Triguinho (Wheat), Ademir Sopa (Soup), Balao (Balloon), Tesourinha (Little Treasure), Alfinete (Pin) or Valdir Papel (Paper). That’s gotta do wonders for confidence when your teammates are named “Hulk” and “Pitbull” and you’re Paper- “PAPER IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE WORKPLACE, GUYS.”

I know I’d try to get an awesome nickname like “Grizzly Bear” or “Electric Guitar” or “EXPLOSION”, but inevitably end up being dubbed “Coffee Table” or “Friendly Rock” or “Chipwich.” Actually, I’d settle for Chipwich. Chipwiches are great.

Odds of collapse at World Cup:

  • Team- 45% chance.
  • Infrastructure- 72% chance.
  • Social order- 97% chance.

Outlook: Brazil has undergone something of a transformation in recent years, shifting their tactics and personnel from their traditional, flashy Joga Bonito, to a defensive-minded, counterattacking team that more closely resembles the Italians’ Catenaccio. Now, they’ve blended the old and new into a marauding combination of strength, speed and terrifying defense. This isn’t the most talented Brazilian team compared with the nation’s historical peers, and yet it’s still one of the three or four most stacked rosters in the tournament. Players such as Thiago Silva, Oscar, and Paulinho will form the backbone of the starting XI, but the success or failure of the team will – rightly or wrongly – be credited to Neymar. The 22-year-old has been considered the next great Brazilian goal scorer for the better part of a decade, and while he’s an outright star, he has yet to live up to the unreasonably high expectations that follow him. Neymar had mixed results playing for Barcelona this year, plagued at times by off-field controversy and on-field dissonance and an uneasy partnership with teammate/rival Messi. Neymar is expected to lead Brazil to the title in front of the home fans, and quite simply, nothing less will do. They’ll roll through a relatively easy group A, but a potential round of 16 faceoff with Spain, Chile or the Netherlands could be the defining moment for the Selecao as a whole and Neymar in particular.

Croatia

208259-croatia-team-at-hampden-2013
Official FIFA slogan: “With fire in our hearts, for Croatia all as one!”
Alternative slogan: “We may not play good defense, but we’ll pull up from three all day, son.”
Primary international exports: Peja Stojakovic and Toni Kukoc
Most famous world traveler: Marco Polo
Strangest source of national pride: Cravat Day! Celebrated on October 18, Cravat Day commemorates the invention of the necktie in Croatia in the 17th century. This best, and perhaps saddest, aspect of Cravat Day is that it’s not even a tradition. It started in 2003 when they wrapped a GIANT tie around the Roman arena in Pula, and Croatian Parliament unanimously declared it a national holiday in 2008. Croatian Parliament: “We literally have nothing better to do than celebrate neckties!”

Most famous world traveler: Marco POLO
Fun fact about Croatia: “Croatia,” in Croatian, is spelled “HRVATSKA”. God, other cultures are so weird, right guys?
Horrifying fact about Croatia: They’re the only country whose currency is based upon the slaughter of adorable animals. So this is unfortunate. Their monetary unit is the Kuna, which is Croatian for Marten -this adorable creature. So that’s kinda cute, right — that they’ve got this little guy as their financial mascot? Wrong. It’s called the Kuna, because Kuna used to be captured and killed for their skin, which was used as a unit of trade. Croatians are MONSTERS.
Most famous world traveler: Marco POLO
National backhanded compliment: Croatia’s the only nation from the former Yugoslavia who went on to do anything good. Bascially Croatia is to Yugoslavia what Idris Elba is to The Wire or Puff Daddy is to Bad Boy (miss you, Craig Mack!).

Worst way to celebrate World Cup qualification: Nazi-inspired chanting.
How they learned this lesson: The hard way. After defeating Iceland in a playoff to clinch World Cup qualification, starting centerback Josip Šimunić saluted the home fans with a chant that is associated with a fascist, Nazi-inspired movement. He was suspended 10 games, and will miss the World Cup as a result. Šimunić (and others) argued the chant was simply a source of national pride, but, you know- when there’s uncertainty as to whether or not your actions are inspired by Nazis, you’re probably in the wrong. That’s the kind of thing you have to be pretty certain about.

If you’re looking for a dark horse team to root for, you could do a lot worse than Croatia. For one, they’re Mexico’s chief competition for the second spot in this group, and it’s always fun to root against Mexico. Second, their jerseys are awesome. I realize that I might be the only person outside of Croatia who thinks this, but it’s a fact. The checkerboard pattern owns and if you disagree you’re wrong. I am a respected authority in the world of fashion. Third, and most important, they’re a legitimate candidate to become the Cinderella of this tournament.

There are just 4 million people in Croatia, and yet they came within a hair of winning the whole damn World Cup in 1998, losing to eventual champions France, 2-1, in the semifinal. Since then, things have been bleak, but the Croats(?) boast world-class talent in Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modrić, Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandžukić and Sevilla Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitić, plus talent from Europe’s top leagues throughout the roster, and could be primed for a deep run if they’re able to get their level of play to match their level of talent. If you’re looking for a reason to root against them, see that whole Nazi-inspired chant thing.

According to a Croatian tourism site, a friendly and very common greeting among the Croats is Bog!, both for Hi! and Bye! So bog to you, my friends. Bog to everyone.

 

Mexico

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Official FIFA slogan: “Always united, always Aztecas.”
Alternative slogan: [Alternative slogan changed 10 times in the lead up to the World Cup and ultimately left blank.]
Captain: Rafa Marquez, the ill-tempered, steady presence for three World Cups is less of a man, more of a soccer-playing Treebeard. At 35, he’s known around the locker room for his constant chatter about Saved By The Bell, NYPD Blue and other cultural references lost on his far younger teammates. As team captain, Marquez controls the locker room iPod, which he has subsequently replaced with a cassette deck that only plays Nirvana’s In Utero, the only cassette Marquez could find in 2014. But it’s not about music for Rafa, who leads his younger peers by example: picking them up promptly at 8:15am on game day in his Subaru Outback, then loading everyone back into his sensibly priced, 33mpg hatchback after wins to take the team out for pancakes, though he still longs for his youth when thick, frosty malts at the the five and dime were the traditional spoils of victory. Things were simpler then for Rafa. He knows his current teammates call him a dinosaur when they’re out at the nightclubs long past his nightly bedtime of 8:30pm. He wasn’t always this way. There was a time when he too would had a taste for the the gin joints, where he’d stay up half the night playing parlor games, telling war stories and drinking Old Fashioneds — simply called Fashioneds at the time — before making it home just in time to break out his decoder ring and listen to the latest installment of The Shadow. Rafa wants to tell Chicharito and his youthful compatriots about those days, about all he’s seen, and all he’s learned. But how does one breach the indelible line of paternal authority? How does a father every truly know his sons; or better yet- they him? How indeed?

Best Slayer inspired fashion statement: The lightning bolts on their jerseys, which would be badass if everyone on the team was fucking six. For goddsakes Mexico, show some self-restraint for once.

Best player: Carlos Vela.
Worst player to be your best player: Carlos Vela. Vela is a tantalizingly talented forward/winger who put up 16 goals and 12 assists in 37 games in La Liga this season. He also happens to hate playing for Mexico and has refused call-ups to the team for the better part of three years. Worst for Mexico is Vela has always left the door open to a return, even saying he’d welcome a call-up last September before ultimately no-showing. Vela’s presence – or absence – has loomed over every coaching change and every national team failure since his departure, and there have been many. Vela was the leader of what was supposed to be a golden generation for Mexico, with Chicharito, Giovanni Dos Santos and Andres Guardado among others, but then one day Vela went out to get cigarettes and never came back, and his team he left behind is still waiting for him to go home.

The Obligatory Bill-Simmonsian Verbose, Contrived Pop Culture Metaphor: With universally lauded peaks interspersed between alternatively ugly and embarrassing moments of infamy, Mexico is the Nicolas Cage of the World Cup. One minute, they’re winning gold- an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, an Olympic medal for beating Brazil in the 2012 London finals. The next, they’re losing to Panama twice during World Cup qualification or making Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider 2. Just when you give up hope, they’ll show their trademark brilliance by going 6-0 in the second round of qualifying or making Con-Air, then they’re selling off castles and making Season of the Witch, or earning just 11 out of 30 possible points in the final round of qualification and finishing fourth out of six teams. Mexico ultimately advanced thanks to a well-documented bailout from the U.S.A., followed by a cakewalk playoff matchup against the Orcs of New Zealand.
For every Lord of War, there’s a Wicker Man, and so Mexico is just as likely to beat Croatia and Cameroon and advance to the knockout round in Brazil as it is to lose all three group games in horrifying fashion. Fans of El Tri are praying for The Rock, but they could instead be forced to watch Drive Angry, and nobody wants to see Drive Angry.

The Mexican National Team’s No Good Very Bad Coaching Staff: Since 2008, El Tri have been coached by nine different managers. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s roughly one every eight months, which is a bit above average. For comparison, nine US Men’s National Team coaches ago, the year was 1983, Dr. J had just won an NBA title, Apple was releasing its first computer, and Clint Dempsey was just a glint in the eye of the demigod who bore him.
It gets better. From September 7, 2013 to October 18, 2013, Mexico employed four different head coaches. First, after giving coach Jose Manuel de la Torre a unanimous vote of confidence days earlier, the Mexican soccer federation fired him following their next game,a 2-1 loss to Honduras, and hired De La Torre’s assistant coach, Luis Fernando Tena to replace him. Four days later, Tena managed his first game, lost 2-0 to the United States, and was promptly fired. He was replaced by Victor Manuel Vucetich, who won his first game, drew his second and watched the third from his couch because — you guessed it — he was fired, but not before Vucetich told the Mexican media, “I am … King Midas, but not God. That’s why it has come to this.” …THE ARISTOCRATS!
Ultimately they hired Miguel Herrara to take over the team, but by the time you read this, there’s a good chance that the Mexican soccer federation has fired Herrera and replaced him with a honeydew with glasses drawn on it.

 

Cameroon

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Official slogan: “A lion remains a lion.”
Alternative slogan: “A leopard can’t change its spots,” “A zebra can’t change its stripes,” or any number of animal sayings that already exist and make more sense than “A lion remains a lion.”
Fun Fact: Not only is Cameroon one of the colors in the Crayola Big Box, it is also a country that exists.

Far and away the most successful African nation in World Cup history, Cameroon has fallen dramatically from their vaunted status. Their stars are aged, their coaching tactics are a mess, and the team has been plagued by controversy and embarrassment in recent years. Their qualifying campaign was more performance art than soccer artistry. Observe:

  • Cameroon failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations in both 2012 and 2013, and missed the latter tournament after losing a play-in game against Cape Verde. Cape Verde is an archipelago with a population of 500,000 that had never before qualified for any major tournament. You never want to lose to an archipelago.
  • They probably wouldn’t have qualified for the World Cup if it hadn’t been revealed that Togo used an ineligible player in a 2-0 victory over Cameroon during a key qualifier. I don’t know what an “ineligible player” is, but I can only assume that Togo fielded several orangutans standing atop each other’s shoulders and wearing a trenchcoat.
  • Cameroon’s president of football operations is currently in prison for using state-allocated team funds for personal use, and FIFA – the gold standard of justice and honesty – suspended the team from international competition last year.
  • Eto’o is a legend for Cameroon, and he’s awesome, but he’s also old, quite old. The guy played in the 1998 World Cup and he’s either 33 or 40 years old depending on whom you ask.
  • Eto’o claimed in January of this year that he was the victim of team-wide “plot not to pass to me.”
  • Their goalkeeper, Charles Itandje, was forced out of Liverpool after being caught on camera laughing throughout a memorial service for the Hillsborough Disaster.
  • Cameroon’s World Cup campaign got off to a resounding start when the entire team refused to board its plane to Brazil due to a dispute over wages.

So yeah. Things are not going well for Cameroon, but their uniforms are DOPE so I’m rooting for them.

The Case against the Case against DeSean Jackson

By now I’m sure you’ve read or at least heard about this article on NJ.com. It’s been sent around all afternoon and used as Exhibit A in the case for why the Eagles shockingly cut DeSean Jackson today.
This article is bullshit.

Desean

The premise is that DeSean Jackson has strong connections to the Crips gang, and that the influence of those gang connections has been of increasing concern to the Eagles organization. It takes only a few paragraphs for the writers to drop Aaron Hernandez’s name, the implication being that the Eagles cut ties with Jackson before he turned into the next Hernandez.
This is also bullshit.

Early on in the article, the writer devote 483 words under the subheadline “The First Signs,” to Jackson’s connection to a 2010 gang-related murder in South Los Angeles. This murder connection serves as the article’s primary source material for its overall thesis, and this is a problem.

“‘DeSean Jackson was not part of the case,’ Jane Robison, a spokesman for the LA District Attorney’s Office, told NJ.com. ‘He was not a charged defendant. He was not a witness.’”

Jackson was in no way involved with the crime. He was not even particularly involved in the investigation of the crime. He was friends with one of the two suspects, Theron “Trezzy” Shakir, and Jackson received a single phone call over the course of the investigation to see if he might know anything about the whereabouts of one of the suspects on the night of the murder. By the detective’s account, Jackson was “cooperative.”

The writers go to great pains to draw the connections between Jackson and Shakir, and they are pretty effective at it. They detail Shakir’s ties to Jackson’s rap label and point out that while Shakir sat in jail awaiting trial for murder, Jackson posted captions on Instagram like “Free Trezzy.” They even reached out to the Eagles front office: “On Thursday, a source in the organization said current front-office members had been unaware of Jackson’s links to an alleged killer.”

But 355 words into the 483 devoted to Jackson’s connection to the homicide, it all unravels in one sentence: “Shakir, who was, in fact, acquitted of Watson’s murder and a related gun charge in January 2013, spent more than a year in jail awaiting trial.”

Here we are, having just read 355 words about why Jackson’s connection to this alleged murderer was so troubling, and then the Shyamalan twist comes that the alleged murderer was innocent all along. In reality, Jackson is friends the one guy whom the courts have proven was definitely not responsible for the gang-related murder. With that knowledge, the “Free Trezzy” caption seems less like Jackson defending a cold-blooded killer and more like a guy who wants justice for his friend, who is falsely accused of murder and has been sitting in jail for more than a year despite his innocence.

The next section, “Another Bad Connection,” is aptly named. The ties between Jackson and a second gang-related homicide are even more tenuous in this case than the first. It goes like this: There was a gang-related shooting outside a business owned or leased by one of Jackson’s family members. That’s all the detail we get about the crime, which seems suspiciously open-ended, especially considering the writers’ prior attempt to lead readers to an incorrect conclusion.  They do tell us that there were some documents belonging to Jackson inside the business (car title, gun permit and receipts), which would be relevant evidence if you were trying to prove that Jackson had at one point in his life been inside that business, and not trying to prove that he was present for or had knowledge of a murder that had taken place outside of it. We also learn that detectives attempted to contact Jackson but never got in touch with him. It should strike no one as odd that Jackson did not return the calls of the same police department that wrongly arrested and jailed his friend the last time he talked to them. Nevertheless, there’s ostensibly enough circumstantial evidence there for the writers (or the Eagles organization) to implicitly connect Jackson to yet another gang-related murder by using non sequiters to make massive leaps in logic, like they’re playing the Kevin Bacon game with DeSean Jackson and random facts.

Finally, we get a bunch of evidence of Jackson throwing gang signs. Gang signs that are only ever thrown by people in gangs and committing crimes and never thrown by people who aren’t in gangs.

The most troubling connection in this story is not between Jackson and the Crips, but between the article’s writers and the Philadelphia Eagles. The article bases many of its claims on “Eagles sources,” the story itself was published just minutes before the team announced Jackson was cut. Almost immediately, the question shifted from “Why the hell did the Eagles cut DeSean?!” to “Did you read that NJ.com article yet?”

Look, DeSean Jackson is an asshole. He doesn’t get along with teammates. People in the front office hate him. He has ambiguous ties to ambiguously bad individuals from his hometown of south L.A. He constantly wants a bigger contract.

But none of these are new issues, neither for Jackson in particular or the NFL in general. You could write a story at least as “damning” as the one on NJ.com about 100 different players in the NFL or any other sport. It’s easy to paint a guy in a bad light if the rules allow circumstantial evidence, hearsay, unnamed sources and carefully worded non-libelous implications. But the rules don’t allow that. It’s irresponsible as a journalist and immoral as a human being to accuse a guy of horrible behavior without any real evidence to do so.

I have no real problem with the Eagles decision to cut Jackson.  My problem is with the way it was done. As long as wild, baseless accusations are fair game, here’s what I think happened: I think Chip Kelly believes every player is expendable in his system (and he may not be wrong). I think Jackson’s latest demand for a new contract demand finally pushed the Eagles’ brass over the edge, the situation became toxic, and suddenly Jackson found himself out of get-out-of-being-an-asshole free cards, and so the Eagles decided to cut ties with him. To this point, it’s all fair play.

But the Eagles weren’t going to get fair value in return for Jackson, and so they knew that whether they traded him or cut him, they’d have a furious fanbase demanding to know why they would cut a Pro Bowl receiver. They risked undoing all the good will Chip Kelly built up in his first 12 months on the job. And so, they fed NJ.com a story that allowed them to not only justify Jackson’s release, but come out of everything looking like a responsible franchise taking a preemptive stand against the next Aaron Hernandez, AND make Jackson sound so toxic that few if any contenders would even contemplate signing him. In one move, they fired Jackson, damaged his professional future and made him sound like the next NFL-star-turned-murderer when really he’s just another asshole who plays football and wants a new contract. It requires some Frank-Underwood-level scheming by the Eagles and some dogshit judgment by the editors at NJ.com, but it’s a lot easier to make the case against the Eagles than it is to make NJ.com’s case against DeSean.

Breaking News: America Is Going To Win The World Cup

As you can see in the headline, America is going to win the World Cup. But before I get to that, here’s a quick look at my internal monologue after the US was drawn into the group with Germany and Ghana. As I said yesterday, things could get bad:

-”NO NO NO NO NO. I’m going to throw up. I’m throwing up. I have thrown up. I shouldn’t have gone to work today. Stop crying, Pete.”
-” FUUUUUUUUUCK YOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU”
-”We’re screwed. That’s it. We only know two teams in our group and our World Cup is already over.”
-”Okay. Stop cursing. You gotta calm down. It’s gonna be okay. We still have one more pot to go. Just gotta hope for Greece or Russia. We can totally advance if we end up with Greece or Russia.”
-”Portugal? FUUUUUUUUUUUCKK YOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU”

But I have since composed myself, thought it through, and realized, “Wait a second- we’re going to win the World Cup!” I’m serious, you guys. WE ARE CANCELLING THE APOCALYPSE.  This may seem like an awful draw, but guess what- the countries in our group are either A) deplorable B) overrated or C) Portuguese. So, yes, we are in the “Group of Death.” Big deal. Bring that shit, Group G. Uncle Sam’s comin for that ass. Examine:

GERMANY
-The Germans have a rich tradition of going into hiding in South America. Expect more of the same.

-The United States has gotten good results in its two recent friendlies against Germany, including a win earlier this year in Washington, D.C.

-The United States has gotten even better results in two not-so-recent, not-so-friendlies against them, going dos-a-cero against the Germans in world wars.

-Espionage. They thought it was a big deal that we bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone? HA. That was only the tip of the iceberg. We have infiltrated the German futbol ranks at every level — the US has a bunch of German American players – the children of military servicemen (AKA SPIES) who were stationed in Germany. And of course we have Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the German national team at the 2006 World Cup, who it turns out was really just a plant, an inside man spying for the US. Now, all those years of living, playing and coaching behind enemy lines have finally paid off. We know the Germans’ plans before they’ve even thought of them.
ADVANTAGE: U.S.A.

GHANA
- By knocking the United States out of the past two World Cups, Ghana has accomplished the remarkable achievement of getting Americans to care about Africa without using a Facebook campaign, so they deserve some credit for that. But as any German will tell you, it’s best to not bring up the past. And the US has a completely different team, coach and style of play since they last met the Black Stars.

-Ghana needed a home and home playoff victory against Egypt just to make the World Cup, and Egypt, as you may have heard, has other priorities right now. Congrats, Ghana, you qualified by beating the 11 guys in Egypt not healthy enough to protest.

-Their chief export is terrible puns using the word ‘Ghana’.

-They lost to Burkina Faso earlier this year. That’s a real place and a real thing that happened.

-If you can separate the history from the current team, Ghana is straight up not very good. Their best player, Michael Essien, is 31, few of their players see much playing time in Europe and their defense is terrible. If you factor out the past, the US would be a fairly heavy favorite to beat them.
ADVANTAGE: U.S.A.

PORTUGAL
-Portugal is just dollar store Brazil.

-The US plays Portugal in the dreaded venue of Manaus, which is located deep in the Amazon, a whole time zone away from any of the other venues. Absolutely nobody wants to play there, but if there’s one thing the US does well, it’s bad conditions. In an average stretch of qualifying games, the US might play in scorching heat, or in a snowstorm, or at the lung-strangling altitude of Estadio Azteca, or on the horrific playing surfaces of NFL stadiums, or surrounded by legitimately crazy fans in Central America and Mexico. So, play in a rainforest? Ain’t no thing. But Portgual? The Cristiano Ronaldo, pomade-styled, dive-happy Portugal? Playing in a jungle? Please. PORTUGAL AIN’T ‘BOUT THAT LIFE.

-They have Pepe, and he is the worst.

-The Iberian peninsula is the Florida panhandle of Europe, and Portugal is its Tallahassee.

-We beat Portugal in the 2002 World Cup and we weren’t even good in 2002!

-Portugal is known for its rich history of maritime explorers like Magellan- COOL CLAIM TO FAME PORTUGAL, YOU PEAKED 500 YEARS AGO. They were better off staying home and killing Christians or talking about the plague or whatever it was Portuguese people did for fun in the 15th century, cause they done messed up: Vasco da Gama opened the seas for exploration, and then Columbus discovered America, and then Portugal was fucked.
ADVANTAGE: U.S.A.

So, in summation, the United States is going to win the World Cup.

/cue Hulk Hogan theme.Captain_America_cartoon_1680x1050 18895625.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx BALD_EAGLE_PIN_PATCH 2 Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851 dooley

bill pullman

Hulk-Hogan-Real-American