The pope as sportswriter

Mary Ellen Kelly reports on some remarks of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nee Pope Benedict XVI, on the 1985 World Cup:

“The fascination with soccer,” he wrote, “lies essentially in that it forces man to discipline himself, such that, through training, he acquires dominion over himself. Through dominion, he achieves superiority. And through superiority, freedom.”

Soccer, he continued, teaches the person the value of “disciplined cooperation” and demands an ordering of the individual within the group. “It unites through a common objective; the success or failure of each one is tied to the success or failure of the group.”

via Cardinal Ratzinger on the World Cup » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Nice analysis, applying really to sports in general.

Why do fans trash their city when they win?

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship.  Could somebody explain this?:

Violence erupted within 30 minutes of the game's end as rowdy fans poured out of area bars and, shortly after, the 19,000 ticket-holders inside Staples began to emerge. Phalanxes of LAPD officers successfully funneled the tightly packed revelers away from the venue, but bands of mostly young men grew aggressive and brazen as they moved into the surrounding blocks.

A typical scene played out on Figueroa Street, where revelers tore down a traffic sign, ripped open newspaper racks and lighted the papers on fire. As police in riot gear approached, the crowd hurled unopened cans of energy drinks at them. Several men stomped on an SUV parked on the street, breaking its windows.

Police chased the roving groups for about two hours, pushing them farther afield until they dispersed and relative calm returned.

Before it was over, police had fired tear gas and stinging pellets to disperse a scrum of several hundred people who surrounded a city bus filled with passengers and attempted to yank the driver out through a window. A cabbie fled when his taxi was set upon by another mob that kicked in the windshield and set it ablaze. A local YWCA, several restaurants and other storefronts had windows smashed. At least eight people, one of them beaten unconscious, were taken to area hospitals. Firefighters put out 19 rubbish and vehicle fires and police had made about 50 arrests.

via Lakers violence: Authorities release raw video of mob attacking cab, seek public’s help [Updated] | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times.

This sort of thing happens in other cities too, including college games.  But not all cities.  It’s a worldwide problem, common also with soccer.  (Let’s see what happens when some team wins the World Cup.)

Now I can see people getting angry when their team loses, but why get aggressive and destructive and mean against their own city when they win?

I’m just trying to understand the mindset.

America and the World Cup

The whole world is caught up in the excitement of the World Cup, the global championship of soccer. This is a true world series, involving virtually every nation in the world, all of whom care passionately about it. Except the United States! We have a team, which opens the tournament Saturday in South Africa in a game against England, but who here is noticing?

What I want to know is this: Why is the United States so apathetic when it comes to soccer? You could say that it isn’t part of our culture, and yet our kids play it, and many parents take that very seriously. Do even soccer-playing kids follow the World Cup? Despite the low scores, soccer can be an exciting game. The scores are no lower than hockey–in fact, the games are very similar, except hockey is on ice–and that sport is a big deal in this country (ask Chicago Blackhawk fans, whose team just won that championship). So how do you account for America’s lack of interest in soccer, unlike virtually every other country in the world? We get all excited about the Olympics, even with less popular sporting events. Shouldn’t we get similarly psyched up about the World Cup?

UPDATE:  The American team took a 1-1 draw with England, which counts as a major upset!  England is ranked way up there as a contender for the championship, and a tie gives you a point and undefeated status in the tournament.  C’mon, everybody:  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!

The death of the Big 12

Nebraska has fled the Big 12 for the Big 10!  Missouri may follow.  Now, in even bigger news, the word is that Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and either Baylor or Colorado will join the Pac-10, forming a Western superconference!

So much for the Cornhusker/Sooner rivalry that has always been a big part of my college football memories.  I wonder what new rivalries might emerge.  Does Nebraska, which has been in somewhat of a decline, think it will do better against Michigan and Ohio State? 

The Cornhuskers will make more money.  Big 10 teams get an equal cut of a rich TV deal, reportedly $22 million a year.  Big 12 teams just get $7 million, according to what I heard.  But what kind of TV deal might a Pac-West megaconference bring? And what will happen to the other Big 12 teams, such as my other alma mater, Kansas?

See – Pac-10 ready to make moves; Nebraska’s decision is key.

Big Ten wants to expand

OK, so the Big Ten college conference wants to expand.  Among those schools speculated to be candidates are Nebraska and Missouri.  But why?  How is being in the Big Ten better than being in the Big Twelve?  Or do Nebraska and Missouri think the Big Ten would be an easier conference in which to do well?   Wouldn’t that be a rather humiliating reason?

The prospects of such an expansion–and rumors are flying about many other candidates–just seems to violate reason, regions, and traditions (such as the rivalry between the Oklahoma Sooners, from one of my alma maters, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers).

Big Ten expansion roundup – Big Ten Blog – ESPN.

Oklahoma sports

The Oklahoma Sooners, from my alma mater, had a miserable season last year by the standards of  the University of Oklahoma, an 8-5 record.  And yet my home state just dominated the NFL draft.  Not only was OU quarterback Sam Bradford, who sat out most of last season because of injury, the number one pick.

Six players from the state of Oklahoma were chosen in the first round. The most players from Oklahoma colleges previously chosen in the first round was four — in 1976 and 1970.  The number 3 and the number 4 were also Sooners.  So three of top four picks were from OU.  If we throw in Oklahoma State University, a Cowboy was number 6.   So four of the top ten picks were from Oklahoma schools.  One other Sooner and one other Cowboy were also taken in the first round.

In addition to Bradford, the state players who have been drafted are:

— OU’s Gerald McCoy (defensive tackle), taken No. 3 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Click to read more.

— OU’s Trent Williams (offensive tackle), taken fourth by the Washington Redskins. Click to read more.

— OSU’s Russell Okung (offensive tackle), taken sixth by the Seattle Seahawks. Click to read more.

— OU’s Jermaine Gresham (tight end), taken at No. 21 by the Cincinnati Bengals. Click to read more.

— OSU’s Dez Bryant (receiver), taken 24th by the Dallas Cowboys. Click to read more.

via Tulsa World: OU’s Bradford taken No. 1 in NFL draft.

In addition to this good showing, Oklahoma’s first professional sports team–no, we won’t count the Sooners in their scandal years–made the NBA playoffs and the first professional playoff game was played on Oklahoma soil. That would be the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not only that, the Thunder, in its second year of existence, had its coach Scott Brooks named coach of the year and Kevin Durant won the league’s scoring title. In its first year of existence, last year, the Thunder only won 23 games, and here they are in the playoffs against the champion Los Angeles Lakers. Here is a nice description of Durant playing Kobe Bryant in the team’s first home playoff victory:

In a move that could have been perceived as naive, daring or dumb, Kevin Durant asked for a fourth-quarter challenge on Thursday that most would rather avoid. At the urging of Oklahoma City assistant coach Ron Adams, Durant signaled to teammate James Harden to make a switch on defense.

Durant wanted to — no, needed to — guard Kobe Bryant during those final 12 minutes in which Bryant has established his reputation as the best closer in the game.

The move startled Bryant, who isn’t used to having his shots contested by a 6-foot-9 forward with seemingly never-ending, elastic arms. Durant helped force Bryant into missing eight of his 10 field goals in the fourth quarter. He blocked one of Bryant’s shots and saved the ball to preserve a four-point lead, then posted up Bryant, spun around him and nailed a baseline runner in a scintillating sequence that secured the Thunder’s 101-96 win over the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.