Saturday, June 22

World Cup Today

Turkey-Senegal was an enormous disappointment, not at all a game worthy of a World Cup quarterfinal. Senegal, which has played some riveting games this tournament, was an undisciplined, disorganized mess this time around, incapable of generating much attacking pressure and leaving gaping openings through its defense. Brazil would have scored goals by the bucketful against a defense like this. Turkey, however, required extra time before it was finally able to find the net. Before that, time and again, a Turkish attacker would find himself alone in the Senegal penalty area, with a clear shot at goal, only to attempt one touch or one pass to many. For G-d's sake, just shoot the ball! Brazil has already made short work of this bunch once, and there's no reason to think it won't happen again.

I missed Spain-South Korea, which is probably just as well, as it appears to have been yet another in a series of appallingly-officiated games. After the match, Spanish striker Fernando Morientes, who had two goals disallowed, was incredulous: "Two goals disallowed -- that has never been seen." But of course it had been seen previously in this tournament: Italy had two goals disallowed, both on highly questionable calls, in its first round match against Croatia. Italy was also victimized by poor officiating in its match against South Korea; that South Korea, a co-host of the tournament, has been the beneficiary of so many bad calls in the knockout rounds has led to much dark talk of conspiracy, which threatens to poison what has otherwise been an exciting World Cup.

Friday, June 21

Meryl Yourish intervenes in the ongoing discussion of interpretive method, writing, "To paraphrase Lewis Carroll: My words mean exactly what I want them to mean, no more, no less." Hmm. Sounds like an intentionalist, don't you think, Jeff?

Actually, Meryl was writing about what a blog's content does and does not reveal to its readers about the blogger's identity. But her post seemed like a good vehicle for me to say that I do still have another post in the works on interpretation, to which I know Jeff Goldstein is eager to respond. It probably won't go up until late this weekend or early next week, however.

Over at Off-Wing Opinion, Eric McErlain had some interesting early-morning observations about the socio-economics of US soccer fandom. He also notes, correctly, that the US showed more poise and discipline trying to come from behind against Germany than England did against Brazil.
World Cup Today

This wasn't the morning I'd hoped it would be, obviously. First, as I wrote earlier, England went out 2-1 to Brazil, essentially failing to come out for the second half. And then the US lost to Germany, 1-0.

The US played valiantly, though. Unlike their 1994 and 1998 predecessors, whose game basically consisted of sit-back-on-defense-and-hope-for-a-fluke-goal, this team attacked with style, creativity, and impressive displays of teamwork; they were great fun to watch throughout the tournament (except against Poland). Only some mis-hit shots and outstanding goaltending by Germany's Oliver Kahn let Germany maintain its lead in the second half. The US also was unlucky in the 50th minute, when the referee failed to detect a handball by a German defender in the goalmouth (but then, the US is hardly in a position to complain after the handball no-call against Mexico). The US dominated possession and for the most part smothered German efforts to attack. Alas, the US's continuing weakness defending free kicks proved their undoing. Maybe it wasn't all Agoos's fault after all. It's sad to think that it's the end of the road for this particular assemblage of players (and coaches—Bruce Arena did a masterful job). But with players like Donovan, Beasley, and O'Brien at the core, the US should continue to build on its present success.

Meanwhile, the tournament has lost a bit of its spark for me, with the departure of the US and England. But there's still plenty of great soccer to be played. Noah and I will be watching.

Thursday, June 20

World Cup Tonight

Yes, I'm actually awake and in front of the television, waiting for SportsCenter to end and the game to come on. I feel a bit silly, actually, and I probably won't make it all the way through the game. But I feel the need to express solidarity with my sister and her family, who are crowded around the telly in Brighton (I just received some pre-game analysis from my four-year-old niece, who says that England will win, because "they've been winning"). Plus, England and Brazil are arguably the two best teams left in the tournament, so I'd like to see this live rather than on tape.

Here we go...

A hot and sunny day, which should favor Brazil, one would think.

Immediately a corner for England, but nothing comes of it.

The teams are just feeling each other out and getting warmed up at this point. Neither is playing with any urgency. England manages the first shot, but it's a weak header by Heskey.

Seventh minute now. Brazil has started probing the English defense. No real danger yet, but hints of things to come.

Tenth minute, and once again Heskey looks inept, misplaying a long Beckham pass.

Thirteenth minute, and England has had a fair amount of the possession. Brazil is just passing around in its own end.

Fourteenth minute. A free kick for Brazil deflects off the English wall, leading to a corner, then another. Seaman badly misplays the second, but it goes through the box.

17th minute. Yawn. This is not helping me stay awake.

19th minute. A dangerous combination from Rivaldo and Ronaldo, but the shot is right at Seaman.

22nd minute. This is still a rather characterless game. The players seem to be conserving energy in the heat.

23rd minute: Goal, England! A long feed to Owen at the top of the box; the Braziliam defender goes the wrong way, and Owen drills in the shot.

27th minute, and the pace is picking up at both ends.

34th minute. Internet Explorer has crashed twice on me. Thanks, Microsoft. Heskey had a near miss on a header a few minutes ago, and Brazil came right back with a chance but couldn't convert.

38th minute. I just noiced that Beckham is wearing long sleeves. In 90 degree heat. Is he insane?

40th minute. Heskey is down, having taken an elbow in the face. The teams take a short breather.

45th minute. Another crash, taking with it a long post about Seaman's injury. There's going to be a lot of stoppage time.

Stoppage time: Goal, Brazil! A brilliant run by Ronaldinho, who feeds Rivaldo for a beautiful shot just inside the left post. The announcers are blaming Beckham for giving the ball to Ronaldinho.

That's the half. Brazil is lucky to come out of this tied; England, meanwhile, must be feeling rather frustrated at failing to keep the lead into the half. I'm going to switch from OS 9 to OS X (even though X is bog-slow on my two-year-old Powerbook), hoping I'll be able to avoid all the crashes.

47th minute. Here we go again. A free kick for England just outside the box. Beckham curls a kick into the box; a foul is called on England. Bah.

49th minute. Goal, Brazil! Unbelievably perfect free kick by Ronaldinho from about 35 yards clears Seaman and his ponytail and just nips in under the crossbar into the corner of the goal. Terrible, terrible play by Seaman, and an outrageously great shot by Ronaldinho.

53rd minute. Some dangerous play by England in the box leads to a corner. It comes to nothing, but then Carlos fouls Scholes on the right side. Again some potential, but no decent shot.

57th minute. Ronaldinho, having made brilliant plays on the two Brazilian goals, gets a red card for throwing an elbow right in front of the referee. England has a man advantage for 30-plus minutes now. Ronaldinho takes forever and a week to leave the field. That should be two minutes of stoppage time right there.

62nd minute. Beckham goes down in the box. That should be a penalty--there was definitely contact--but it's not called.

65th minute. Blogger is making this difficult--it's unresponsive as hell. England is creating pressure but no good chances.

70th minute. England really should be doing better than this with a man advantage. Edilson comes on for Ronaldo.

72nd minute. The English fans are singing "God Save the Queen." Rivaldo gets poked in the eye and is booed--the fans seem to think he's faking (which would not be beneath him).

74th minute. Nice move by Mills in the box, but his shot is deflected.

77th minute. Beckham goes down in the box again, but this time it's a dive. Brazil then does a nice job of keeping possession for awhile. England is playing sloppy soccer; they'll need to pull together if they want to have a chance.

80th minute. Shearingham and Vassell come on for Cole and Owen.

85th minute. Scholes goes down just outside the box but doesn't get the call. It's getting a bit desperate for England now.

88th minute. England futzes around and loses the ball. Brazil smartly kills time.

90th minute. England is showing nothing. But here's a corner. Butt gets his head on it, but it's not a clean shot. Four minutes of stoppage coming.

Stoppage. Shearingham floats the ball ineffectually through the penalty area. England is panicky and is squandering time.

And that's it. A sad showing for England in the second half--they seemed deflated by the Brazilian goal just before the half. England could do nothing with the man advantage; they never seriously threatened.

My niece will recover, but I'm worried about my brother-in-law, who will be in despair through the weekend. Meanwhile, I have time for a brief nap before the US-Germany game begins.

World Cup Today

Bill Davis, author of the superb World Cup 2002 weblog, wonders today about the experiences American fans are having watching this remarkable tournament, which heads into the quarterfinal round tomorrow. My own viewing of the Cup has been relatively quiet: I watch the games (either live or on tape) in the morning while caring for my baby son, who doesn't think much of the games themselves but finds my reactions highly amusing. Much as I enjoy Noah's company, I do sometimes envy those who are able to watch in one of the bars or restaurants with like-minded fans. Even if the crowds there tend to be small (here in Indianapolis the newspaper reported on a gathering of 30 for the US-Poland match), there's no question that it's more fun to watch a game with other enthusiasts.

I was in England for Euro '96 and the 1998 World Cup and in France for Euro 2000, In those countries, international soccer permeates the air during major tournaments; there is a constant buzz of energy, at least as long as the national team is still alive. The closest parallel in the US would be having a local team in the World Series or the Super Bowl—but there the fever pitch remains localized. People elsewhere in the country may be interested, but they don't become obsessed. In France in June 2000, by contrast, I went from Bordeaux to Provence to Paris over the course of two weeks, and everywhere the focus was on les Bleus.

Euro '96 was particularly exciting, as I found myself in the host country, staying with my sister and her English husband, a passionate fan. Thanks to him, I was able to attend the semifinal match between England and Germany. England had begun the tournament still smarting from the failure to qualify for Word Cup '94, a feeling captured in the opening verse of 3 Lions, the semi-official song of the 1996 English team:

Everyone seems to know the score
They've seen it all before
They just know, they're so sure
That England's gonna throw it away
Gonna blow it away…

Hardly a way to stir up the crowd. Yet, despite the cynicism in some of the lyrics, the song ultimately was uplifting, and as England marched through the tournament it became ubiquitous. Finally, the semifinal, and the sound of tens of thousands of English partisans singing the song's refrain—"It's coming home/It's coming home, it's coming/Football's coming home"—again and again at the top of their lungs sent chills up and down my spine. I've been lucky enough to go to NFL and NBA playoff games and even World Series games, and nothing has come even remotely close to the atmosphere at Wembley that day—at least until Germany wound up winning on penalty kicks. (I'm not alone among Americans in my reaction: Anne Applebaum began her Tuesday column at Slate by describing her experience at the same game).

Compared with that experience, watching this World Cup in a largely indifferent country is thin gruel indeed. And yet the games this year have been so exciting that it's still been a wonderful experience.

Here are my uninformed predictions for the quarterfinals:

England vs. Brazil: The Brazilians, as usual, are exquisitely skilled, but they haven't yet had to face a defense like England's. Provided that Michael Owen genuinely is recovered from his groin pull, and thus is capable of generating some offensive spark (and provided that England isn't content simply to defend but actually attempts to create some offense), England should win. England, 2-1.
US vs. Germany: The US is seen as a team with little technical skill that has survived on tenacious physical play. This isn't entirely fair—the two US goals against Mexico were as pretty as anyone could hope for—but there's no denying that the Americans' successes in this tournament have come against teams—Portugal, South Korea, Mexico—that play a less physical style. By contrast, the US was terrible against Poland, the opponent they've faced that most closely resembles Germany. The Germans are brutes and won't let the Americans play their style of game. It's been a great run, but I fear it ends here. Germany, 2-0 (but of course I'd love to be wrong).
Senegal vs. Turkey: I haven't seen Turkey play yet, but the reports I've seen suggest that the team's play has not exactly inspired awe. Senegal, meanwhile, is one of the great stories of the tournament so far; I see it continuing. Senegal, 1-0.
Spain vs. South Korea: Spain made relatively easy work of its group in the first round but underachieved in the second half against Ireland and nearly gave the game away. If they make any such lapses in this match, they'll pay. Provided that the Korean players have recovered from Tuesday's remarkable win over Italy, they should be able to ride the home crowd into the semifinals. South Korea, 2-1.

Off to take a quick nap: it's going to be a long and exciting night.

Wednesday, June 19

Interpretation, Part 2

This is turning out to be too long for a single post, so I'm going to proceed in stages:

Last Friday, I wrote a long post reacting to two much shorter posts that Glenn Reynolds had made on Wednesday. Glenn's posts, I thought, contained a cheap shot against liberals (something that Glenn does rather frequently, as Max Sawicky is pointing out this week) and misrepresented the interpretive methodology that non-textualist judges use. I informed Glenn of my post by email; unfortunately (but perhaps understandably in light of the hundreds of emails he receives each day), he did not respond. Jeff Goldstein did, though; in a post at Protein Wisdom, he noted my statement that "[o]ne doesn't have to fully adopt a pomo 'all text is indeterminate' position to recognize that many texts allow for a variety of interpretations, even when constrained by textualist methodology." He read this statement (as I intended it to be read) as an assertion that "one need not believe that a text can mean anything to posit sensibly that a text can mean several things -- as determined by context (and influenced by the growing body of precedent)." He found this assertion "potentially troubling in the context of interpretation" and asked for clarification.

In a separate email to me, Jeff informed me that he considers himself an intentionalist. I'm not sure exactly what he means by that--Jeff and I inhabit different corners of academia--but rather than ask for clarification from him, I'll simply proceed, on the assumption that he will correct me if I have misunderstood him.

I find it interesting that Jeff holds himself out as an intentionalist because, in the legal world at least, intentionalism is now largely out of favor. As practiced by judges interpreting statutes, intentionalism means that judges should read a statutory text in a manner so as to give effect to the intent of the legislature that adopted the statute, as evidenced principally by legislative history. In this form (which may well differ in some respects from what Jeff means by intentionalism), intentionalism was a principal (although not exclusive) method of statutory interpretation for several decades. It still retains some vitality in the area of constitutional interpretation in the slightly altered form of originalism. In the realm of statutory interpretation, however, intentionalism has fallen prey to a number of difficulties:

The problem of misplaced focus. In the nineteenth century, the use of legislative history was largely disdained. In the twentieth, however, as references to legislative intent became more common, lawyers and judges came to rely upon formal legislative history--committee reports, floor statements, and the like--as evidence of what the enacting Congress meant. In time, it sometimes happened that those involved in a dispute would focus on legislative history to the exclusion, or near-exclusion, of the statutory text. In his book A Matter of Interpretation, Justice Scalia recalls a brief submitted to the Supreme Court that began by discussing the legislative history of the statute at issue, only to conclude: "Unfortunately, the legislative debates are not helpful. Therefore, we turn to the other guidepost in this difficult area, statutory language." The shift in focus from statutory language to legislative intent as witnessed by legislative history is particularly problematic in light of the next difficulty.

The problem of formal authority. The Constitution sets forth formal requirements for the creation of statutory law (well known to those of my generation, who learned our civics from Schoolhouse Rock): to become law, a bill must be approved by a majority of both houses of Congress and be signed by the president (or the president's veto must be overridden by a vote of two-thirds of the members of each house). What becomes law under this mechanism is not the legislative history, for that is not the subject of either Congress's vote or the president's signature. What becomes law is the statutory text, for only the statutory text undergoes the constitutionally mandated procedures.

The problem of manufactured evidence. Once it became clear that courts would rely upon formal legislative history as a tool for interpreting statutory texts, incentives were created to shape legislative history (particularly committee reports) in particular ways so as to influence the judicial process. Interest groups discovered that it was sometimes easier to influence the text of committee reports than it was to shape a bill's text. The danger of a disconnect between legislative history and statutory text grew as a result.

The problem of collective intent. The above difficulties all relate to the use of legislative history as evidence of intent. I doubt, though, that reliance on formal legislative history is what Jeff has in mind when he speaks of intentionalism. Other problems with determining intent in the context of statutory interpretation, however, are unrelated to the use of legislative history. Foremost among these problems is the fact that statutory texts are the product of many hands and, as noted above, gain their authority from the understanding and approval of many different individuals. In short, there rarely will be a single intent at work in a Congress of 535 individuals, or even in that portion of the Congress that votes in favor of a particular bill; it is not at all uncommon for different members of Congress to understand a bill differently and to proceed on their different assumptions. I understand that this is exactly what Jeff seems to find problematic; I assert the point here not as a matter of interpretive theory but rather as an observation of what actually happens on Capitol Hill.

The problem of different governmental function. Congress of necessity writes bills in language meant to encompass categories of persons or entities in a variety of circumstances. Courts, however, are restricted by Article III of the Constitution to deciding "cases" or "controversies"--discrete disputes between or among a limited number of parties arising out of discrete sets of circumstances. Sometimes, the particular circumstances faced by a court in an individual case will not have been contemplated by the Congress that enacted the relevant statute; in other cases, it may be that Congress was politically unable to reach a precise resolution of a particular question and thus deliberately left it to the courts to work out the details of implementing a broadly worded statutory scheme. Congress does this sometimes: members want to be seen as tackling big problems, but they don't want to be blamed for the difficulties that their solutions entail; thus, they leave the statute broad so that they can blame the courts when the difficulties emerge. The Americans With Disabilities Act, about which I've written in my scholarly work, is a prime example of this kind of statute.

The net result, in any event, is the point that I made in my first post, and the one that Jeff found troubling: there may, in particular cases involving particular statutes, be situations in which more than one reading of a statutory text is plausible.

I'll have to leave it there for now, even though this is not as tightly written as I would like (it's my third wedding anniversary, and a fancy dinner with my darling wife Katherine beckons). The next post: When judges engage in statutory interpretation, are they interpreting an existing text or creating a new text (or both)?

And Again

There's been another suicide bombing in Jerusalem; at least three are dead and more than 20 injured.

Once again, Tal G. provides a local perspective.

Update: the death toll is now at least six.

World Cup Today

No early morning soccer today. I am bereft.

Tuesday, June 18

I Hate to Keep a Good Blogger Waiting . . .

. . . but my response to Jeff Goldstein won't be posted until tomorrow. I'm working on it, though.

Madeleine Begun Kane (who kindly links to this site) neatly and cleverly captures the blogging experience in the Bloggers' Rhapsody.
You Say It's Your Birthday

Happy 60th to Sir Paul. The timing of the ex-Beatle's wedding to Heather Mills last week makes sense: it's bad enough to have tons of news reports referring to a wedding between a 59-year-old man and a woman in her mid-30s; it's that much more awkward if he's 60.

And Again

Of course, it's difficult to exult at the magnificent soccer being played in South Korea and Japan when yet another Palestinian suicide bomber has struck inside Israel, this one killing 19 bus passengers and injuring 55.

The Palestinian capacity for self-defeating action appears to be undiminished, as this attack comes shortly before Bush's planned speech on the Middle East, in which he was expected to outline plans for a provisional Palestinian state. It's hard to imagine how he could do so after today's events.

Every American effort this year to revive the pathetic remnants of the "peace process," every last one, has been met by a brutal Palestinian attack. Regardless of how many Palestinian moderates capable of forming the basis of a stable state there may be (very much an open question at this point), there are far too many others who will accept Palestinian statehood only by violent victory over Israel--and while these people may not have the capacity to defeat the Israeli armed forces, they do have the weapons and personnel to inflict enormous damage. In the absence of a firm and credible plan to stop the mayhem these terrorists produce, it's unthinkable for the United States to promote the creation of a Palestinian state at this particular time.

Tal G. has local coverage of today's attack, which occurred in his neighborhood in Jerusalem.

World Cup Today

A tremendous match today between Italy and South Korea sent yet another traditional power home, as Korea scored a golden goal to win, 2-1. I missed Korea's early missed penalty kick, but had the game on by the time Italy scored easily off a corner in the 18th minute. Vieri celebrated by putting his index finger to his lips, shushing the Korean fans, but the crowd was having none of it. The Koreans continued to press forward, their enthusiasm compensating for their lack of polish, but it kept coming to naught in the penalty area as the Korean forwards repeatedly attempted one touch too many instead of just shooting the ball. By the 70th minute, the Koreans began to appear spent, and Italy had several excellent chances on counterattacks. Strangely, despite having only a one-goal lead, they made only desultory efforts at finishing--which they surely regretted in the 88th minute, as Seol pounced on a Panucci misplay in the penalty area and drilled a shot inside the right post for the tying goal. After that, all hell broke loose: Vieri missed a wide-open net from six yards for the Italians, then at the other end Cha blasted a bicycle kick straight at the Italian keeper, then Seol ripped the ball just outside the left post seconds before time expired.

Regrettably, I didn't get to watch the extra time, as Noah demanded the television for his morning viewing of Baby Mozart. But I'm going to tape ESPN2's replay this afternoon--this game will be worth watching again.

Look who's left: four traditional powers in Germany, England, Spain, and Brazil, and four upstarts in South Korea, Turkey, Senegal, and the US. It's not uncommon for one or two underdogs to make it to the quarterfinals, but four? Even if a traditional power ultimately prevails in the final, this tournament has well and truly turned the soccer world upside down.

Monday, June 17

The Second War

The Bull Moose writes:

War is Hell. The Moose observes that we now know that we are capable of fighting two wars at once - as long as one of them is a class war.

Last week, General Karl "Guts and Glory" Rove pledged to the assembled troops at a gathering of the National Federation of Independent Business that, "This is a war, and we need to make an ongoing commitment to winning the effort to repeal the death tax." Finally, all of those Bush Administration and Republican officials who missed the opportunity to fight in 'Nam have a good war in which they can enlist.

All those "fighters for freedom" such as Lott, Armey, DeLay and Gramm can now have their chance to take the hill for the heirs of the comfortable. Like we watched in Braveheart, with faces painted, these free-market warriors will march into battle oblivious to the potential paper cuts and the threats to their vocal cords. Freeeeeeedom is their battle cry.

* * *

Forgive the Moose for being a Conscientious Objector in this war on behalf of trust fund heirs. The Democratic alternative that was rejected by the GOP would have protected family farms and businesses from the tax by raising the exemption to $4 million and $8 million for couples. Will some wise Democrat point out that the GOP voted to raise taxes by rejecting this alternative? Yet, Commander Rove is not deterred to storm the beaches on behalf of the super-rich beneficiaries of less than one half of one percent of all estates.

Who said idealism is dead?

There's more, but I don't want to push the boundaries of fair use.

Bear in mind that the Moose is at least nominally a Republican (he's a McCainite). Why have we not heard such forceful language from the Dems? Every time Democrats criticize a tax break for the rich, they're accused of promoting class warfare. Yet here Rove is the one who made an explicit declaration of war, and one that will benefit only the top tiny fraction of the populace. What is this if not class warfare?

Coming Attractions

Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom noted my long reaction to a Glenn Reynolds post (which is more than Glenn himself did). Jeff focused in particular on the following sentence from my post: "One doesn't have to fully adopt a pomo 'all text is indeterminate' position to recognize that many texts allow for a variety of interpretations, even when constrained by textualist methodology." Jeff stated that he found this assertion "potentially troubling in the context of interpretation" and asked me for clarification. Clarification in this instance will require some length; I hope to post my response tomorrow. In any event, it's coming.

I know that this exchange may cause a few eyes to glaze over, but for people like me (and, apparently, Jeff) this is fun stuff.

Inspired by a Washington Post article, Jason Rylander ponders the implications of the drug Modafinil, which is supposedly superior to caffeine or amphetamines in helping users remain awake and alert. Something like this would be terrific for me. I have an unfortunate tendency to become extremely drowsy while driving; on one occasion I fell asleep at 65 miles per hour on the New Jersey Turnpike, remarkably causing injury to neither myself nor anyone else, though my car was not so fortunate. As Jason notes, though, the danger of Modafinil is that people in high-pressure, time-consuming jobs will begin to make routine use of the drug; worse, employers might come to expect that their employees will do so. What then?
World Cup Today

It would have seemed unimaginable when the tournament began, but the US is facing a quarterfinal matchup with Germany after beating Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16. The US played a conservative game for the most part, restricting its offense to the occasional lightning quick counterattack, and the strategy paid off. Mexico dominated possession but seemed to have little idea what to do with the ball, although they did test Brad Friedel on occasion. The US, on the other hand, scored two beautiful goals. The first, in the eighth minute, set the tone for the game and ensured that there would be no early disasters as there had been against Poland: Reyna scooted down the right side and crossed smartly to Wolff near the post, who knocked the ball back to McBride for a clean shot at the left side of the net. The second involved precision long passing, as O'Brien sent a long ball to Lewis sprinting up the left side; Lewis then delivered a perfect cross to Donovan, who headed it home. Brilliant!

The game was marred by atrocious officiating. The US collected five yellow cards from a referee who seemed personally affronted by anything that looked remotely like stalling. That same referee missed an obvious handball by O'Brien, who punched the ball out of the penalty area in one of the most notorious non-calls since Maradonna relied on the "Hand of God" to score against England in 1986. At the time, the score was 1-0, and had Mexico been awarded a penalty kick the game might well have been tied (Friedel's success to date against penalties notwithstanding) with over 30 minutes remaining. As it was, the US scored ten minutes later, and the game was put away. Mexico meanwhile received five cards of its own, two of them during a series of increasingly flagrant attacks on US sub Cobi Jones. What did Cobi ever do to them?

Two other observations. The first: Agoos sits the game out, and the US gets its first shutout of the tournament, despite occasional shaky play by Friedel. Coincidence? I think not. The second: The Guardian, which usually offers smart and clever minute-by-minute reports of games in progress, was unbearably smug and condescending toward the US in today's writeup, revealing an anti-Americanism usually only found in the paper's coverage of the US in international affairs. The hell with them; I'll link elsewhere from now on.

In the other game, Belgium had Brazil back on its heels for much of the game but could not score--the one time the ball found the net, the goal was disallowed. Rivaldo then put Brazil ahead in the 67th minute with a stunning turnaround shot--a dazzling display of individual skill--and that was that. The Brazilian forwards are like sharks, and that first goal was blood in the water. Belgium rarely threatened again as Brazil pressed the attack, and Brazil won, 2-0.

Friday will now feature Brazil-England in the early game and the US-Germany in the late game--late being a relative term here, as the game will start at 7:25 a.m. EDT. What a morning that promises to be!

Sunday, June 16

Wine of the Week
Chateau Lynch-Bages Pauillac 1989

I graduated from law school and started earning a salary at about the time the 1989 Bordeaux came on the market. At the time, excitement about the vintage's high quality was offset by consternation at the wines' high asking prices, which were up thirty percent or more over the very good 1988s. But what did I care: I had some money, I had lately developed an enthusiasm for wine, and these were supposed to be among the best Bordeaux of the century. And so, calling upon the services of my credit card, I bought a case of 1989 Lynch-Bages, a wine that critic Robert Parker called "[o]ne of eight 1989 Bordeaux not to be missed." I paid the outlandish sum of $35 a bottle, which was $10 more than the still widely available 1988, but I was young, single, employed, and Parker had said I couldn't miss it.

Nowadays, 1989 has been largely surpassed in popularity (and in price) by 1990, but 1989 is still regarded as an excellent vintage, and those $35 bottles of Lynch-Bages are now fetching $130 apiece at auction.

But then, I buy wine for drinking, not for investment. The 1989 Lynch-Bages retains a remarkably youthful deep ruby appearance, without a hint of aging. The wine has a deep, cedary nose with just a hint of bottle age and rich, powerful blackcurrant flavors with a swell of coffee and tobacco at the midpalate and a long finish. The tannins are substantial but ripe and balanced by the fruit. This is powerhouse Bordeaux, which means it's atypical for a region better known for its slightly austere wines. Some might find the hints of bitterness at the midpalate a bit off-putting (although they don't bother me in the least). But it's worth remembering that this is a French wine, made to be drunk with food, unlike so many California wines that seem to be made to stand out in tastings. The 1989 Lynch-Bages is delicious on its own, but pair it with a good steak and it's irresistible.

Soccer fans who have not already discovered it owe it to themselves to check out Bill Davis's World Cup 2002 weblog. Not only does it have thoughtful commentary on the action, it also features an excellent set of media links.
World Cup Today

Ireland managed a last-minute tying goal for the second time in the tournament, then dominated overtime but couldn't put in the golden goal, and wound up losing to an unimpressive Spain on penalty kicks. Meanwhile, Senegal proved that their victory over France was no fluke, besting Sweden 2-1. Senegal moves on to play either Japan or Turkey and thus has to be considered to have a good chance of making the semi-final. Their performance is the story of the Cup so far.

The US received a bit of good news in preparation for tomorrow's match against Mexico: defender Jeff Agoos is out for the rest of the tournament (however long that may be for the US) with a strained calf. Agoos played for US coach Bruce Arena at Virginia and was a stalwart for Arena's MLS championship squads at DC United. But he did nothing to reward Arena's loyalty in the first round matches; he was consistently a step slow and an inch short, and his poor play had a part in every goal the US surrendered before his injury, including the disastrous two early goals against Poland. Agoos's departure, together with Frankie Hejduk's one-game suspension, requires a reshuffling of the US back line, but it's hard to imagine that their play could be any more unsettled than it was in the first round.