I now remember what August and September were like in Xiamen. The heat isn’t quite here yet – we’re barely reaching 25°C – but the humidity is back in full force. Nothing ever dries and everything smells moldy. There’s mold on our balcony walls, in the grooves of my cutting board, and even in a pair of shoes that I was then forced to throw out. It’s no longer sufficient to shower once a day – no, now you have to shower each time you venture out.
So I went out this afternoon to run some errands and buy food, then came back to my air-conditioned oasis to refresh and recoup. I watched two Chinese movies, 杜拉拉升职记 (Go Lala Go) and 非常完美 (Sophie’s Revenge), which is kind of a compromise between studying and doing nothing. I’m getting better at understanding even as I realize that really none of the Chinese movies I’ve watched have been legitimately good (with the possible exception of Mulan).
I waited til the sun went down to go out again, meeting some friends for dinner before Spain’s World Cup debut. Ever since I started paying attention to soccer (so, Friday), I’d been hearing about the beauty of Spain’s game. Even my Chinese friends said “看到西班牙的足球，才看到真正的足球”- you haven’t seen real soccer until you’ve seen Spain play. Expectations were, to say the least, kind of high.
I will say, they know how to control the ball. To my inexperienced eyes, it looked like a bunch of guys in red shirts kicking a ball around while the guys in the white shirts just kind of stood there. But, I must also say that my inexperienced eyes could tell that the Swiss defense was basically a wall. Every time the red-shirted guys got near the goal on the right, they either fell down or the ball bounced right back to them.
There are others who do sports commentary so much better than me, though. I really appreciated today’s play-by-play in the NYT, because the writer was delightfully sarcastic:
Minute 9: Possession for this match probably won’t end up 99.9 percent for Spain. It only appears that way. That said, the Swiss have just challenged the lonely blades of grass in the Spanish end and have a corner.
Minute 28: The Swiss defense reminding us all how defenses around the world, and in all sports, often serve as killjoys of brilliance
Minute 45: This has resembled the Brazil-North Korea match in the sense of a juggernaut spending the first half trying to solve a stubborn underling which rudely has prevented the world from witnessing goals of flair. Defenses can be so impolite.
The first half was even more boring than the first half of the Netherlands-Denmark game, but it also became exciting in the second half with an unexpected goal – a Swiss one. Yeah, even I was surprised. I seriously love this sports writer at the NYT:
Minute 52: He scores after Casillas challenges a counterattack and leaves the goal mouth empty. Astonishingly, Switzerland leads 1-0, and life remains unfair.
Minute 74: Goodness. As Derdiyok corralled the ball on the right side of the box and sent Spanish defenders flailing about, Derdiyok pushed a bid for an outright 2-0 shock into the right post, as merely a billion or so fans around the globe wonder what on earth is going on here.
Minute 82: As everyone was saying before the match, Spain really must be careful with that Swiss attack. Actually, no one on earth said that.
It was pretty crazy. Until the Spaniards started going insane trying to figure out what had happened to the easy game they were expecting, they totally controlled the ball. I was a little pleased because I picked up on this stuff, like the fact that Spain outshot Switzerland by a ton.
I’m still surprised to hear myself say intelligent (maybe?) things about soccer, because old habits die hard. Of today’s 96 minutes of play, I probably spent 8 minutes amused by the presumption of the player who goes only by the name “Pedro” (in Spain!); another 6 staring at the long curly locks of Puyol and thinking of Guernsey; and at least 12 minutes complaining to YongZhi about how uncomfortable the bar stools.
But yeah, I’m making progress. A commercial came on before the game and I reached over to get Carlos’ attention, saying “That’s Lionel Messi, he plays for Barcelona, and he’s from Italy!” Loud groans followed from everyone – as he’s apparently from Argentina? I still think 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
Speaking of “not bad”, that’s exactly how I’m doing in the World Cup pool I entered. I have 29 points, which places me ahead of two people, tied with another, and only 1 point behind Carlos and Diederik! This, my friends, is the definition of dumb luck.
[Note: The title is from an inside joke with the 2008 SENEA travel team.
Question: If you were in a fight and had a choice of weapons, which would you choose: pliers or fillet knife?
Answer: Neither. Go with the cowbell.
Because, seriously, have you seen the size of those cowbells the Swiss fans were ringing? I am convinced that this is the source of their power.]