Archive for July, 2014
My new post for NotGraphs is about having a shy bladder and an imagined double play. http://www.fangraphs.com/not/6-4-3/
This thing for Sabritas (called Lay’s in most countries, and Walkers in the UK) has been on TV a lot in Mexico over the last month. Harmless enough advert. Sports star sells unhealthy food. Nothing unusual in that. But, y’know when you see something too often and you can’t help but get annoyed by things? Well…
1. The most important thing here is how this size bag of crisps is so much bigger than it needs to be. Hashtag Environment.
2. The idea of the commercial really only works with this size of bag, but have we all noticed that we are expected to buy bigger bags of crisps these days? The individual bags we had when we were kids seem to not be promoted any more.
3. Messi has a very un-crinkled crisp packet. Fine, it’s an advert, but it looks weird. Like that way you can just tell someone has had plastic surgery or a photograph has been Photoshopped. It just looks a bit off.
4. Messi’s just walking around Rio de Janeiro, eating some crisps. No big deal.
5. Why are they trying to tell us that all the people in this advert would consciously steal crisps from Lionel Messi? “Oh look, there’s the best football player in the world: I WANT HIS CRISPS!”
6. To his credit, Lionel Messi is very accommodating when people ask to take a photograph with him.
7. Messi does something nobody ever does when he gets to the end of the bag of crisps. Tips it, shakes it, and then notices there’s no crisps left. Who tips a crisp packet? Unless you are putting them in a bowl or empty the crumbs into your self-loathing face hole, NOBODY EVER TIPS A CRISP PACKET.
8. When he notices that those people abused his good nature and stole his crisps, around the 0:18 mark, there’s a real brief moment when he looks up and just above the camera. That’s my favourite bit.
9. We then see the resulting photographs in various locations. Messi realises at that point. How did it take so long, Lionel? Then he just smiles and shakes his head, all like “you guys…”
10. Considering how well he seemed to take it, it seems slightly out of character that he would then go ahead and try the same scam on an unsuspecting lady. Lionel: you can afford a new bag of Sabritas. Don’t sink to their level, man. She, though, does look suspicious. And rightly so. Why are you, Lionel Messi, wanting to take a photograph with me? Don’t do it, ma’am, he wants to get into your Sabritas, the thieving tinker.
The image above is every Beatles album (the UK albums) reduced in Photoshop to one pixel in size. (So they are easier to see, I then increased each pixel to a 20 pixel square.)
Below are three rows. The top row is my initial guess at what each sleeve would look like reduced to one pixel. The second row is of the sleeves reduced in Photoshop with the “Nearest Neighbor” setting. The bottom row (and the one at the top of this post) is with the sleeves resized using the “Bicubic” setting.
Turn the sound off on the top video, and the turn on both videos at the same time, watching the top one. It’s not a perfect fit or anything, but it does make the Rocky montage feel different with Bronski Beat playing. And there are also occasional moments when Stallone’s movements are in time with the music, and those moments make me happy.
When the World Cup began, my brain filtered things in favour of certain teams. I looked at the way the groups and knockout stages would work, and created a pick of the pops: I wanted England or Mexico to win. But realistically, I’d be pretty cool with seeing Messi play well and Argentina winning, partially for the frisson that would come from them winning it in Brazil.
When the groups ended, things got easier. My brain plopped down on one side or the other. I wanted Mexico to beat the Netherlands. I wanted Colombia to beat Uruguay. I would kinda like to see Algeria beat Germany. Without really giving it too much thought, my interest in the games chose a side. It just happened.
Why does my brain do that? On Saturday morning, I went to a bar downtown called El Jarrito to watch the Argentina-Belgium game. It started at 11am Mexico time. The bar didn’t really look particularly open. One of the metal shutters was still down. The other shutter, though, to the main entrance was open. And the TVs were on. An old man in a cardigan was sat near the bar at the far end. I asked him if they were open. He nodded and asked what I wanted to drink. He got up, went to the fridge and brought me an Indio. El Jarrito isn’t the prettiest place. The floor is kinda knackered. The tables are topped with old, broken Formica, and they have white, plastic, Sol-branded chairs. The gents kinda smells bad.
I thanked him for the beer, grabbed a chair from one of the stacks, and sat at a table facing the bigger of the two TVs. The Argentinian and Belgian anthems played. I really would’ve been happy if either team had won the game, but right there, as the players stood around waiting to kick off, my brain decided. Argentina.
It had done the same the day before. Brazil v Colombia: the latter. France v Germany: the latter again. The choice of Germany is an odd one for me. My view of the German national team has changed. My feeling towards the German team used to be firm. Based, probably, on our bullshit insistence on remembering that We beat Them in 1945. And We had another victory in 1966, but since then, the upper hand has not really been Ours. Sure, there was the 1-5 in Munich in 2001, but really, in my lifetime, Germany has always been better than England at football. The German team is what the English team could be if whatever it is that goes wrong with them didn’t go wrong every time. And when Germany beat England in 2010, it was kinda cathartic. I wish we didn’t have that not-given-goal to look back at and give us a “what if..?” England were well beaten, and it somehow cut free the weight of hating the German team. Instead, it made me realise, way too late, that they aren’t the ones at fault.
England’s football history is full of shitty performances and occasional “unjust” defeats. Games where we can blame something for nearly (but not) winning. We constantly talk about why this is. Is it the youth system? I don’t know for sure, but you look at the Costa Rica and US teams and you have to wonder. We could argue about it, but virtually every player at every position is better on the English team than either Costa Rica or the US team. But somehow, England did worse than both of those teams. We can’t blame the referee, we can’t blame penalties, we can’t blame the Germans. And it’s nice to accept that. To enjoy the German team now. And it also makes me feel bad about being a dick in the past to German friends about their team.
I wanted Germany to beat France. And, I kinda think I want them to beat Brazil, too. Nothing against Brazil at all, really. It’d just be nice to see Fifa’s perfect script torn up. It makes no sense in my own head, though. I look at the semi-finals and think I want Germany and Argentina to win their games. But I don’t actually want a Germany v Argentina final. I’d rather see a Brazil v Argentina final. That perfect Fifa script final. But, in reality, the only teams I’ve wanted to win along the way are both out. A Colombia v Mexico final would’ve been my preferred final. I enjoyed watching those teams. And none of the teams in the semis have been entirely convincing in the tournament. Apart from that first game against Spain, the Netherlands have been nothing particularly special. Maybe just getting through to the semis is enough; play well enough to get there and then see what happens. None of these teams are gonna be ones we remember as World Cup greats. The World Cup should be won by a series of moments, partial games. Colombia beating Uruguay, the Belgian onslaught against the US. Suárez’s goals against England. Tim Cahill’s goal.
Maybe it is just about winning. Which is kind of sad for me. Winning at all costs takes the joy out of things. It’s Harold Schumacher. It’s Jose Mourinho. It’s Arjen Robben throwing himself around to cheat his opponent instead of staying on his feet and actually doing what we all know he can do: play football brilliantly.
I am aware of the hypocrisy, obviously. Players on teams we don’t like, we have harsher opinions of them. I, like you, don’t like all the diving in football, but we kinda turn a blind eye when players on our favourite teams do it, and we jump all over it when players on other teams do it. Especially teams we don’t like. Arjen Robben has played for Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. A trio of teams that are incredibly easy to hate. It’s the cynicism, though, isn’t it? Any advantage I can get here, I’m going to take it, no matter how fair it is. I can see the other side of the argument: we somehow hate Robben more for no real reason, that he’s only doing what other players do, except he does it “better.” I don’t buy that. Robben is a fantastic player. But he will always be primarily remembered as a diver. Same with Suárez, really. No matter what he does, he’s gonna be the biting guy. I think the distaste for Robben is about the professional athlete that never happened in all of us. Damn, if I had his talent, I would absolutely want to be remembered for that talent, not for being a melodramatic cheat.
After the Netherlands v Mexico game, Robben talked about and admitted diving in the first half, and ended by saying “I apologise for the action in the first-half but that’s football …” That’s football!? That’s like a drug dealer saying “that’s smackheads!” after selling someone some heroin. Absolving yourself of responsibility by blaming it on the culture you helped, if not create, then promote. The ugly cynicism in those words is what makes him so easy to hate.
My behaviour, though, also needs to change. I want to stop choosing a side “just because.” I want to be able to sit down and watch Brazil v Germany and have no rooting involved, just enjoy it. Not get annoyed if the “wrong” team wins. And to refer to my behaviour as the equivalent of “that’s football…” is to admit that I will never improve my behaviour. And I can’t admit that, I won’t. I will always have flaws, but to not see that and not actually make attempts to change makes me no better than Robben’s non-apology. An apology that says, “yeah, soz, but I’m gonna keep on doing this.”
Adidas, we need to talk about the thin stripe across the shoulder blades of every kit you have designed for teams in the World Cup. Why is it there? Not got enough stripes on all of your kits? But it’s not just you who does this. Other kit manufacturers get too fussy, too.
It seems to be in our nature as football fans, sports fans, human beings, to get annoyed when anything changes. Team crests, for example. Arsenal’s cannon is facing the wrong way these days. Manchester United lost the words “Football Club” off their crest. Everton fans got riled up when their team’s crest was re-designed last year. Liverpool’s crest grew and grew over the years, and in that growth included–rightly–two eternal flames for the 96 Hillsborough victims. And with a new kit manufacturer (Warrior) the crest was pared back to a beautiful and simple Liver bird and L.F.C. But that meant we lost the flames. As a design, I prefer the return to a simpler crest, but as a fan, I wish the flames were still in there. But they are now on the back of the neck, either side of the number 96.
As someone whose work is vaguely design-related, though, I can also see that things need to change. A wee bit of tinkering, modernising, refreshing, seems like something we should be doing now and again. Cardiff City fans, rightly in my opinion, are resistant to their owner’s decision to change from blue to red shirts. That’s not a wee bit of tinkering, though. Which brings me to the World Cup kits.
The teams at the World Cup are representing their countries. And the sports manufacturers are fucking with things. Spain have red shirts and blue shorts. That’s how it is. But not this time. This time they had red shorts. England have dark blue shorts. But not this time (or last time, actually); this time they had an all-white kit. Germany are supposed to have black shorts. This time, they too are all white. Brazil, the home nation with the most iconic of all international kits should have yellow shirts, blue shorts, and white socks. But they’ve played their last three games with white shorts. That’s not Brazil. In this era of brand management, you would think that Fifa would understand that one of the key things about the World Cup is our ability to instantly recognise a kit. Yellow-blue-white: Brazil! Yellow-white-white: err, who’s that? These things are fundamental in our collective memory of World Cups. What is a World Cup if these memories, the history, don’t exist? (Well, aside from a way for Fifa to rock up into a country and scrape every possible penny from under that nation’s collective sofa.)
The design of kits seems all about letting the manufacturers do whatever they want. Within reason. I don’t understand why goalkeepers, who obviously need a slightly different kit, wear a uniform that is so often totally unrelated, design-wise, to their outfield brothers? If you mixed up the goalie kits and blurred the team badge, it’d be kinda tough to guess which keeper belonged to which team. Not only does this make for unnecessary ugliness, it seems to me to be missing an opportunity. I have no data for this, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume that of all the replica jerseys, the goalkeepers’ jerseys are the ones that sell the least. If Adidas and Nike and Puma, etc. gave it a bit more thought, there is a potential revenue stream there that benefits everyone. Make the goalie kit look like an essential part of the team, just like the person wearing that kit is an essential part of the team.
Maybe, though, my feet are just stuck in the mud. Maybe I just don’t want to accept change. And change looks good sometimes in hindsight. I remember disliking the the 1990 Germany home and away jerseys at the time. I look at them now and really like them. I can’t ever say I will truly dig, though, the Nike jersey for Portugal this time around. It just seems so cynical that the two tone stripes somehow pause to allow for a lighter red band wide enough for the Nike logo to appear unsullied on a plain background. Something they neglected to do for the country badge on the other side. It just seems to me, as design elements go, to be so disrespectful and so blatantly about promoting themselves. Or, maybe I’m spending too much time staring at a screen with moving images of football players on it. Maybe, right?
I love Dodger Stadium. I’ve only ever been there once, but it’s so beautiful. The above drawing is done with the iPad app, Adobe Ideas. You can see it bigger, and the ink drawing it is based on, here.
I’m starting a new ongoing project on the site today. It’s called Bandstand. Hopefully I’ll keep this going until I have done every single band that exists, has existed, and will ever exist. That last sentence is a lie. But I will do a lot more.
I wrote a post about this photograph in May 2013. It’s a deceiving photograph.
Later this week, those two teams play each other again. So, self-promotion!, here’s a link to that post again: