Link Love

Hope everyone had a great weekend! Enjoy this week’s Link Love! (And remember you can check out past installments here.)

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Why did I not know about this website before?!? FreeDocumentaries.Org lets you stream documentaries right to your computer. It’s free and legal. I can’t even explain how excited I am- I never get to watch documentaries.

100 Awesome Things About America. Hope everyone had a happy 4th!

A rundown of thrifting: do’s and don’ts.

Why the World Cup is sports at its best.

I was going to write another World Cup recap, but this post just summarizes the quarterfinals and the semifinals perfectly. It’s going to be intense. Who are you guys rooting for?

Video Love

Because I’m a sucker for retro, pin-up style. Especially when paired with a catchy pop tune. Thanks, B.

… Have I mentioned I love all things retro?

This weekend, Spike TV had a Star Wars marathon. Below are two of my favorite scenes between Princess Leia and Han Solo. Harrison Ford is B.A. I LOVE Star Wars.

Which links did you love this week?

~ Sarah

Will Soccer Stick?

On Saturday, for reasons I would not like to relive, the United States was eliminated from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After the team’s dramatic victory over Algeria on Wednesday, I went all out for their match against Ghana. My family and I went all out, digging out American flags left over from Independence Days past and decking ourselves out in red, white, and blue. My dad and I researched local sports bars so we would watch the big game in the perfect place. We finally settled on Kim Bokamper’s Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill in Plantation. The atmosphere and food were great. It was like the 4th of July.

Unfortunately, like I said, the game didn’t go so great. It was nothing short of a heartbreaker. Afterwards, as I was reflecting the successes and struggles of this American team, I thought, “Could this come at a worse time for U.S. soccer?”

After Landon Donovan’s heroics against Algeria, Americans were pumped. One moment the U.S. was just minutes away from elimination, and the next moment they had actually won their group. (The last time the U.S. had won their group was back in 1930, at the first ever World Cup.) The team officially became news when the mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon.

But with the increased media coverage came expectations. The U.S. already came into the tournament with some goals (pun not intended) and repeatedly said that if they didn’t advance out of group play, it would be a “failure”. Despite some adversity in the group stage, things ultimately went in favor of the U.S.:

“Rare will be the times when the U.S. will have a group stage as navigable as the one it enjoyed in this tournament. Even rarer will be the World Cups where the entire bracket will break as kindly as this edition did. A place in the semifinals was not beyond the Americans.” Jeff Carlisle, ESPN

Maybe it’s sentiment like this, that the U.S. was poised to make a deep run into the World Cup, that got people’s hopes up, because now that the Round of 16 was starting, it seemed everyone was watching. The anticipation for Saturday’s match was absolutely ridiculous, in the best way possible. The U.S. men’s soccer team finally got people’s attention.

And then they lost.

So what now? Sure, players and fans will first take the time to lick their wounds. But it’s never too soon to start looking towards the future.

Discussing the future of the players is one thing. Over the next four years, as the team works to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, they will lose some of their key veterans. The younger players will gain even more experience, though, and now Coach Bradley (should he stay) will know exactly which areas need to improve. There is certainly a lot of potential.

But will Americans care? That’s really the question I’m getting at. Americans are notorious in the international community for not warming up to soccer. Our national pastime is baseball and our religion is football- the kind played with a pigskin. Soccer just isn’t a priority for the majority of sports fans in the U.S.

That’s slowly changing though. The United States hosted the 1994 tournament, suburban soccer moms are now part of our national identity, World Cup matches are earning record ratings, and growing numbers of immigrants are bring their passion for soccer stateside. The U.S. is in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups (sign the  petition here).  Still, that’s no guarantee that soccer and the World Cup are now part of our national consciousness.

Now that America’s ride in the tournament is over, it’s time for people to hop off the bandwagon. After all, the loss against Ghana was a bitter disappointment (mostly because it was our fault). And it happened just as when excitement in the team was peaking- we were ready for more. Instead, we’re out. The U.S. failed to advance in front of one of their biggest audiences. This loss was a wasted opportunity, not just for the team’s future success, but they lost a chance to really hook fans on the product: soccer.

Even if the U.S. improves in the next few years, chances are they won’t be elite. So is it worth it to keep rooting for them? And what about the World Cup as a whole? Will there be a dip in ratings now that the U.S. has been eliminated? Or will fans stay interested? Will soccer actually begin to matter to Americans?

Even though I feel a bit deflated after the loss, I really am starting to appreciate soccer and the World Cup- this is intense stuff. I’m definitely not an expert on soccer, but I’m learning a lot this summer. So I’m going to stick around and watch this play out, and I hope lots of new soccer fans will join me.

What about you guys? As always, let me know what you think in the comments!

~ Sarah

World Cup Recap: Group Stage

Can you believe the World Cup started only two weeks ago? It’s already been one crazy tournament! Yesterday’s games marked the end of the group stage. (See the World Cup bracket here.) Before we move on, a quick recap on some of the biggest storylines thus far:

European Meltdown

Things didn’t go as expected for the European powerhouses… England came into the World Cup facing a lot of pressure, with a talented squad and a favorable group. Then they gave up a tie to their former colony, the US of A, in their first game off of Robert Green’s blundered save. They played a dull, lifeless game against Algeria that ended in a scoreless tie. The Brits woke up in time for their third game and ended up finishing second in Group C and advancing. After Germany dismantled Australia in a 4-0 win, they lost to Serbia 1-0. Spain, the perennial favorite in this tournament, lost their opener 1-0… to Switzerland. Italy, the defending champions from the 2006 World Cup, didn’t win a single game and were eliminated when they finished last in their group.

It could be worse though- they could be France. This World Cup was a certifiable disaster for the French, the 2006 runners-up. They followed up a draw against Uruguay with a 2-0 loss to Mexico. From there, things went downhill. Player Nicolas Anelka was dismissed after clashing with the coach, and the remaining players protested by refusing to practice. The French Sports Minister paid the men a visit before their game against South Africa, reminding them “[they] have tarnished the image of France”. Ouch. After being eliminated with a loss to the host nation, the French team went home and there is now investigation to see what went wrong. Only six European teams remain, and they each face European teams in the round of 16. So maybe it’s a good thing three European teams are guaranteed spots in the quarter. I would argue the best European team right now is Holland- they haven’t shown any vulnerabilities.

South American Dominance

While it seems most of the European teams have had, um, issues, the South American teams were dominant in the group stage. Sure, Brazil and Argentina are some of the most decorated countries in soccer, but they’ll be joined in the round of 16 by Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay (pictured above). Four of the five South American teams finished atop their groups and their overall record so far is 10-4-1. (The sole loss came for Chile against Spain.) In fact, this is the first time more teams from the Americas (which includes Mexico and the U.S.) advanced (7) than European teams (6).

Comeback Kids

Giving up early goals was almost America’s undoing. A fluke goal by Clint Dempsey gave the U.S. a good start by drawing against England. In the second game, however, the U.S. were down 2-0 to Slovenia at halftime. Landon Donovan fired up the Americans, scoring within the first five minutes of the second half. Michael Bradley scored the equalizer. Then came Maurice Edu’s brilliant goal in the 86th minute. Euphoria turned to disappointment when the goal was disallowed. And yes, the Americans complained about this phantom goal. The disappointment nearly overshadowed the team’s powerful, passionate comeback. Still, they remained motivated and, after England drew another tie, the U.S. controlled their own destiny. After battling for 90 minutes against Algeria, with close shot after close shot (and another disallowed goal), and facing elimination, Donovan scored the game-winning goal in the 91st minute. Now, with a favorable bracket ahead, it’s plausible for the U.S. to make the semi-finals. It’s a redefinition of the American Dream.

Officiating

I’m not going to dwell too much on this, but the officiating in the World Cup has met with the occasional controversies. The refs have not had an easy tournament. The U.S. alone has had to deal with phantom fouls and disallowed goals. Some goals have been very borderline offsides. Obvious handballs haven’t been called. Some plenty kicks have been unwarranted (I’m looking at you, Italy). There have been yellow cards galore. Of course, the human element and the authority of officials is part of sports (we haven’t forgotten Jim Joyce) but it’s not good when the refs have to much to say about the end result of a game. Just ask the NBA. Hopefully this will change as the tournament progresses.

Africa’s Only Hope

Unfortunately, South Africa became the first host nation not to advance out of the group stage. There were hopes that the African teams would’ve performed better on their home continent (after all, European teams win in Europe, South American teams succeed in Latin America, etc.) but it was not meant to be. The Ivory Coast didn’t survive in the Group of Death, but they still performed well. Only Ghana advanced into the round of sixteen, where they’ll face the U.S. (Saturday, 2:30 pm EST, ABC). For the loser, this afternoon’s game will be a heartbreaker. An entire continent’s hopes are resting on the Black Stars.

And on that note, let the knockout round begin!

~ Sarah

P.S. Check out Fair Play and TIME for more on the World Cup.