Friday, May 20, 2011


I am not a sports fan.

I do not lay around all weekend in my boxer shorts, flipping from game to game to game.  I do not do brackets.  I do not know the names of the guys on ESPN or even on Monday (Sunday?) Night Football.

This is not to say that I do not have a passion for certain teams.  In fact, it was, I believe, somewhere deep in the third quarter of the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, when TCU was gaining momentum against Boise State, that my wife, watching me perched raven-like atop the arm of my sofa, chewing my fingers, observed: "I see now why you do not follow sports."

It was 1981, in the Fall, although Fall in Los angeles is no different than Summer, and the Dodgers were down two games to nothing against the Yankees.  The series had moved from New York to Chavez Ravine, and the boys in blue needed to take advantage of the home field.  It was during that game, while I watched at home, that I prayed, fervently, penitently, beseechingly, for divine intervention.  Now, I'm not one for religious superstition, or for personal grandstanding, but the Dodgers did win that game, and the next three to win the World Series.

And well, ya, there are the Timbers...

So, it is not sport in general, but the teams to whom I have attached myself that stir the circulation, throttle the testosterone and rouses the inner caveman.  And no, I chose not to bore you with tales of Timbers fans, chainsaws and chants, but I am going to talk a little about a photo...

It's this one.

Pity it is so tiny in the wee confines of this page, but for the full effect, see it here.

This is a photo from a game that didn't matter.  It was from a game that did not count in the MLS standings.  It was a qualifier match for a secondary tournament, and ultimately had no long term effect on anything.

Only, it did.

This was the first game at home after two humiliating road losses.  It was the new squad's first game in front of their fans.  It was the game in which they figured out who they were.  The young man in green is Khalif Alhassan.  Born in Ghana, but found his way to weird wet Portland, this was the game in which he became a star.  After several half-assed appearances, and one thorough ass-whooping from the angry Scottish coach, Alhassan discovered his own determination and his ability to fly.

Into the wind, into the rain, with a horde of red-shirted defenders on his heels, this is the Khalif he has become.  This is also the wallpaper image on my computer, and it reminds me, when the rain is in my face, to keep running, because that is the only way to win the game.

And that is what sports can teach us.  And perhaps it is also why sports lend themselves to efficiently to film.  Again, I am really not a sports fan, yet so many of my favorite films are sports films.

Now, of course there is the drivel, any sports movie featuring Kevin Costner, for instance, but there is also the sublime.

Rudy.  Yes, Rudy.  It is your favorite sports movie.  It is everybody's favorite sports movie.  Determination, inspiration, tradition...  Don't deny it.  It's your favorite.

I would also add Lagaan.  Yes, it is in a different language and has musical dance numbers, but hell, they beat the British in a two day cricket match...  Any movie in which the British lose (AND features colorful dance numbers) is a damn fine movie in my book.

Of late, however, I have discovered a new sports movie, to rival the hallowed position of Rudy.  You probably have seen it, maybe not.  HBO has been showing it every night for about six months.  History, epic scope, social commentary, bloody athletic violence and Matt Damon with his shirt off!  I'm talking about Invictus.

Invictus is the latin for "unconquerable," and relates to Mandela's unconquerable soul as much as South Africa's rise in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  Historical, passionate, illuminating, suspenseful and inspiring.  It has the legs to overcome and perhaps conquer Rudy for the top spot.

1 oz French Vermouth
1 oz Italian Vermouth
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Orange Juice
Dash of Grenadine
Shake over ice and strain into martini glass...


  1. In art, science or sports, it is wonderful to watch another human excel.

  2. Dylan8:28 AM

    I have purposely never seen Rudy, so there. Not my favorite.

  3. Invictus is indeed a lovely movie. I saw it on a plane, enjoyed it enough to where I made Jadine watch it (who does not like sports movies as a rule.) She also enjoyed it, mostly for the Nelson Mandela component. But she did begin to understand the value of a sports team bringing a torn region and people back together.

    ...not unlike the Saints. GEAUX SAINTS!

  4. Mrs. G and T12:47 PM

    I am a sports fan. I always have been, and I'm glad that sports has finally found an acceptable outlet (well, two acceptable outlets) in the virtual and physical Lounge. I'm also a fan of sports movies, movies that tell historical tales by means of a compelling story, and movies that feature Morgan Freeman.

    So, Invictus should top my list.

    But it can't, through no fault of it's own.

    I'm a sports fan, and a fan of teams. I like my sports to move fast. I like my teams to have stories, stories I connect with, and stories that not everyone and their brother can claim.

    The best team I have ever seen, with the most exciting sport, the best fans, and the best stories, is the New Zealand All Blacks. I love the sport. I love the history. I love the Haka. I love everything about New Zealand Rugby, and I don't get to see it very often.

    So, Invictus creates this strange vortex for me. It's a great movie, with sport AND history AND a great story AND Morgan Freeman AND rugby AND the All Blacks AND their haka. But they are the dreaded opponent.

    At first I wished that Invictus could have featured any other team in the world as the opponent. Except the game is historical, and it wasn't any other team in the world. But, by wishing for a different Invictus opponent, I wish my All Blacks out of the Cup, which I could never do. Of course it was the All Blacks. It couldn't have been any other team. Ever. The All Blacks and the Cup go together.

    Great movie. Great story. Even a great outcome in the historical and sociological and cultural meta-view.

    But I can't get behind the All Blacks as the enemy.

    Ringa pakia
    Uma tiraha
    Turi whatia
    Hope whai ake
    Waewae takahia kia kino

    Ka Mate! Ka Mate!
    Ka Ora! Ka Ora!
    Tenei te ta ngata puhuru huru
    Nana nei i tiki mai

    Whakawhiti te ra
    A upane ka upane!
    A upane kaupane whiti te ra!


Be compelling.

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