1) Pirlo is semi-divine. He made England look, well, stupid, but that’s not saying much. His real performance for the ages was against a much better Germany side four days later. There was a moment in the first half of the semi-final where you thought he was going to get found out, though. Under pressure in the German half, ball at his feet, for a moment he looked old, frail even. A younger, fitter Özil harried him, and in turning away from the obscenely one-footed Real Madrid star, Pirlo stumbled, putting his right arm down to the turf to steady himself as he fell.
I want you to stop whatever you’re doing, and take a short walk. 12 strides, please, from anywhere to anywhere. Note the distance. For me, it’s here to sort of over there, but for you it might be something else: here-ish to kinda that spot, or even “where I was 12 strides ago to where I am now, looking back at where I was.” Whatever you choose, it isn’t very far, is it? Whatever your gait, it’s probably around 12 yards. Please remember the distance and we’ll continue. Now, imagine that you’ve spent every waking hour since the age of, oh, I don’t know, 4 years old?
Mom always refused to admit we were Irish, though the evidence was pretty overwhelming. Our names, for example: she was a Cruise before she married a Dempsey, or an Ó Diomasaigh (pronunciation: Oh! DEMMA!-shay) as my father sometimes corrected her. His father was Paddy—single-handedly cut the Manchester ship canal, apparently. Had 14 kids. Got a medal from the Pope for services to the poor (though he WAS the poor). Mom disagreed with none of this, except the bit about Paddy being Irish. “Nope,” she said, “Ballinasloe, County Galway? Rubbish.
Math problem: For a restaurant you’ve “discovered” to thrive economically, and thereby maintain the qualities you loved about it in the first place, it needs to attract a certain threshold of other customers to also “discover” it in order to stay open just for you—but not too many as to make it hard to get a table or excellent service.
June 26, 1996. England, Germany, Euro semi-finals. I’m at work. My “office” is a former supply closet, hemmed in by a men’s room, and a women’s room. But for this day only such a perch is good I’m cocooned (if by bathrooms). Safe—no one can get me. At home, the VCR is whirring peacefully; I even thought to set it to run long, just in case. I can do this; I know I can. I had been in the United States for 18 months and had become a black belt at avoiding soccer scores. You learn quickly, with so many big European games being played while America heedlessly goes about its workday.
For his first trick, in only the 2nd minute of the game, Mr. Keith Andrews of Ireland watched Mandzukic the Croat make a flying header towards the Irish goal, but then performed an “arms flung out wide to tell everyone there’s no danger here” signal. In doing his “arms flung out wide to tell everyone there’s no danger here” signal, Andrews of Ireland crucially delayed the dive of his goalkeeper. All that was left was for Andrews of Ireland to raise his hands to his head when he realized the ball had actually skimmed past him, and the keeper, into the back of the net.
Frank Foer: Luke, I'm putting together a Euros blog. Are you in? Luke Dempsey: Couldn’t care less, Frank. FF: The phrase is “could care less,” Mr. Dempsey. LD: Not in England it’s not. FF: You’re not IN England. You haven’t lived there for 17 years. I know for a fact that you missed the whole Jubilee thing . . .
Officially they’re called “The Red Balls,” or “The Big Balls,” but they actually look like the tops of huge mahl sticks—you know, those poles-with-a-knob-on-the-end that painters press against the canvas to avoid smudging their oils. The idea—or, more exactly, the “idea”—is either to prance across the Balls in one go (should you be lucky enough to have the gait of a ten-storey giraffe), or else realize your human limitations and bounce gamefully off the first or second, thereby taking your obligatory dip in the murky brine below.
Spain: Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, backheel, pass, pass, pass, pass, Alonso scuffed shot, goalkick.
Best Uniform: Uruguay, for the insouciant way they wore their collars. No two players agreed -- should it be up, a la Eric Cantona; non-existent, a la Brazil, or all messed up? All messed up seemed to dominate. Worst individual performance: Ricardo Clark, USA. Phew, he was dreadful. Substituted after half an hour against Ghana? That's a starting pitcher giving up 8 runs in the top of the first. On two grand slams. No one out. In the post-season. Least enjoyable game: England vs. Algeria. Did anything at all actually happen?