On the World Cup and Google-Fu Fail (but Google-Octopus Win)

Unlike American football, baseball, basketball and hockey, soccer isn’t a sport that exactly qualifies as a defining feature of American culture, at least at the professional level. It just isn’t to the States what it is to other countries… but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to World Cup mania. The occasion of the FIFA World Cup is pretty much the only time Americans get together to get hyped up about soccer on a large scale.

My first memorable experience with the World Cup was indirect, yet eye-opening: I was living in West Germany when the Berlin wall came down and when West Germany won the World Cup (I was stationed there from 1987-1991). On both occasions, the streets outside my little Ludwigsburg apartment filled with chaos and screaming crowds. One event inspired more hysteria than the other, though. Guess which one? That’s right… the World Cup. It was complete madness. West Germany winning the World Cup in 1990 caused more of a ruckus in the masses than the destruction of the Iron Curtain.

Truthfully, these last few weeks have been so busy that I’ve only been distractedly aware of the World Cup. It was like background noise until earlier this week when an octopus appeared as a Google doodle, and a co-worker mentioned Paul the winner-predicting octopus of yore.

 

Brazil vs. Mexico. Nobody won.

Brazil vs. Mexico. Nobody won.

 

This was an animated doodle, might I add! Like his inspiration, the octopus went back and forth before choosing the winning team of the upcoming match. Paul the predicting octopus, complete with a halo to show that he’d died and gone to octopus heaven.

Since the real-life Paul departed and no other octopus has stepped up to replace him, a slew of alternate psychic animals are being used as oracles to predict 2014 World Cup match winners. I’ve seen mention of elephants, turtles, pigs, pandas and dogs, and there are probably others. To which I say, good luck to them! The octopus has intelligence in his arms, which gives him a clear advantage over animals with dumb arms. I might be wrong, but it doesn’t seem to me that one can successfully replace a smart-armed animal with a dumb-armed one if your goal (haha) is to have him predict soccer match winners.

How do I know about the intelligence of an octopus’ arms? From watching this educational video:

 

 

zefrank1’s commentary dissolves into a winding tangent about Charlotte’s Web at the end (which I find to be hilarious), bringing to mind an obvious replacement critter for predicting World Cup match winners… the spider, another eight-legged marvel of nature!

Anyway, I thought Google’s octopus doodle was a sweet tribute to Paul, and creative little gestures like this keep me from loathing Google outright.

My relationship with Google is complicated. I have trust issues… perhaps Google and I knew each other in a past life and we had a terrible falling-out, with Google betraying me or killing me. Or maybe I don’t trust Google because when I use it, I feel like I’m being subjected to non-consensual surveillance. Whatever the reason, I’ve managed to turn habitual Google avoidance into a sport of its own, actually avoiding it like the plague. (Sorry I’m not sorry for the clichés. I think Google can handle the cliché treatment, and maybe even deserves it.) Many of Google’s interfaces and idiosyncrasies perplex me. I don’t know, I just find a lot of it to be awkward and unintuitive where many Google fans apparently don’t. Big Google-Fu fail on my part? Eh.

I have to say, though, that 2014 has done a great job thus far of taking me out of some of my comfort zones. I had to really start using Google at the beginning of the year (though I resisted as much as I could until resistance became impossible). At this point, I’m fairly immersed in the Google environment: Gmail – two accounts, if we’re including my personal one – Google Hang-outs, Google Docs, Google Calendars, the Google search engine (which I never use on my personal computer, for personal searches) and Google Groups.

Kicking and screaming, but using Google all the same. Go me! Cue the vuvuzelas. I mean, the caxirolas. (Which look to me like hand grenades, but whatever.)

Happy Friday, All!

Incessant Phoenix Flashbacks. Also, the Sports Sitch in Austin.

I realized that ever since I decided to post here on Tuesdays and Fridays, I’ve been posting on Wednesdays and Fridays… this is the fifth Wednesday in a row. Not a Tuesday in sight on the recent calendar. Somehow, despite my efforts for Tuesday, Wednesday is just when it happens. Maybe I’ll try to start posting on Mondays, as well, to make it a 3x/week affair.

Saturday evening, we went downtown to meet a friend at Champion’s, and he took us for a stroll onto Rainey Street in pursuit of some local flavor. I kept expecting to find Casey Moore’s cozying up to the old houses lining the street. I wonder when the look-out in the back of my mind will stop automatically using my old Phoenix metro stomping grounds as a cultural point of reference for Austin? Austin is a very unique place with a distinct character of its own, but without wanting to, I’m finding Arizona corollaries for many places we encounter here, as well as many of the same businesses. Some of the Austin neighborhoods appear to have twins in The Valley (Greater Phoenix Metro Area), especially around Arizona State University.

University towns. I like them. Austin being a university town was one of its selling points. The live music scene in Austin is bigger than it is in Phoenix – hell, it’s the “Live Music Capital of the World” – but in my opinion, Phoenix has more of a hard rock vibe, if you can apply a genre of music to a place to describe its general ambience. Phoenix is Alice Cooper’s town. Alice is a big sports fan, and his establishment is a popular pre- and post-game watering hole and eatery in downtown Phoenix. (My girl Stevie Nicks is in Phoenix, too.)

That brings me to this one thing about Austin: there are no major professional sports teams. This is not a source of distress, mind you… it’s just different from what I’m used to. The Greater Phoenix Metro Area has the Suns (NBA basketball), the Diamondbacks (MLB baseball), the Cardinals (NFL football) and the Coyotes (NHL ice hockey). The Ironman Arizona Triathlon is there, and there’s pro fighting. Golf is also big in The Valley of the Sun; the WM Phoenix Open is the largest professional golf tournament on the PGA TOUR. The Super Bowl was hosted at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996 (Cowboys vs. Steelers). There are also two college bowl games hosted in the Phoenix metro area (the Fiesta Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl), and MLB Spring Training takes place there annually. Phoenix is a huge sports town by anyone’s standards.

Here, the major professional sports situation is this: San Antonio’s 1.5 hours away, which actually isn’t that far… it’s the home of the Spurs (NBA basketball). Drive to Houston (3 hours), and there are the Rockets (NBA basketball). And Dallas – 4.5 hours away – has the Mavericks (NBA basketball), the Cowboys (NFL football) and the Dallas Stars (NHL ice hockey). Also in the Dallas area, you’ve got the Texas Rangers (MLB baseball). So the teams are here in Texas, for sure. Just not here in Austin, which is perhaps a good thing, because it’s already bad enough that we’re tempted by live music opportunities every which way we turn.

It’s not like I went running off to sporting events all the time when I lived in Arizona. I didn’t. But I do enjoy the energy of a sports town, and there was the occasional game or boxing bout.

The most memorable one was on May 9, 1993; it was Game 5 of the Suns vs. Lakers NBA Western Conference play-offs. That was some basketball! The Lakers were in the house, and my boyfriend and I decided to go at the very last minute. We went downtown, bought tickets from a scalper and folded ourselves into the madness, because isn’t that what any sane college student would do when she has a final exam the next morning? I had my priorities straight. There were memories to be made. We had a feeling that the game would be phenomenal, and holy crap, our instincts did not fail us. About 500 mini heart attacks later (or maybe it was just one big long heart attack – yep, pretty sure I’m remembering that correctly), the Suns won 112-104 in an astounding over-time upset. That win constituted the biggest upset I’ve ever seen live, in person. Actually, it may have been the biggest upset I’ve ever seen, period.

 

 

I was there!

That was Jerry Colangelo’s Suns, with the likes of Charles Barkley; Dan Majerle; Cedric Ceballos; Danny Ainge; Kevin Johnson; Oliver Miller and Mark West on the roster. Remember that team, Suns fans? I was unabashedly obsessed. I was working part-time as a barista and found myself ridiculously flustered early one Saturday morning when coach Paul Westphal came in an ordered a latte. I don’t think I breathed at all while I was making his drink, and I was embarrassed because I thought he could see my hands shaking. At least it wasn’t KJ standing there before me. I would have passed out.

Needless to say, I’m a Spurs fan now!

But I’ll always be a Suns fan. And a Sun Devil.

One very exciting thing Austin does have, though, is Formula 1 racing. This is enormous, and it’s a relatively new development.

At any rate, I’m sure I’ll get to a point where I’m not looking around seeing Phoenix everywhere we go in Austin. We haven’t even been here two months yet. There’s a lot of discovery yet to happen, and we’re really loving it here so far!

Here are some pics from Saturday:

Stopping for a pose with this sculpture on our way to Champion's on 4th

Stopping for a pose with this sculpture on our way to Champion’s on 4th

A casual look at the scene while I was waiting for my Greek salad at the food trucks on Rainey St

A casual look at the scene while I was waiting for my Greek salad at the food trucks on Rainey St

I was distracted by the industrial beauty of the view while we were eating

I was distracted by the industrial beauty of the view while we were eating

Rainey St hang-out (with live music, of course!)

Rainey St hang-out (with live music, of course!)

A building downtown, lit up all gothicky and sweet at night

A building downtown, lit up all gothicky and sweet at night