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Saturday 20th Jan 2018

About 17 years ago, Cathy and I flew up to Seattle to visit friends over a long Memorial Day Weekend.

Neither of us had ever been to that lovely town in the Northwest--one that reminds me a lot of the San Francisco Bay Area--before, and we happened to arrive on a crystal clear day.

"Look," everyone said, pointing to Mt. Rainier, clearly visible in the distance.

It was indeed a lovely sight, and it continued through the evening for I remember both the hostess and waitress at the restaurant where we ate near Pikes Market pointing out the mountain.

"What's with that?" we both wondered, thinking we have skied in the Sierra and seen more than our share of beautiful snow-capped ridges.

Well, "that" was that over the remaining four days we spent in Seattle, all foggy and dewey and overcast--as it is in the Berkeley hills where we live, we did not even get another peek at the peak.

I think of this event not infrequently because it always reminds me how important context is to just about everything we see and process as human beings, and how easy it is for each of us to miss that context within the perspective of others.

I say noting that in my Soccer Boppers article of last Saturday and that I am not captivated by soccer and the World Cup, though I have no problem with the rest of the world largely going goofy over the event.

So, on Wednesday, when 1 PM rolled around, I turned on the match between the United States and Belgium. I suppose were I Yogi Berra, I would have said I turned the game on 50% out of national pride, 50% out of curiosity and 50% to irritate Anne Coulter, who thinks the sport is facilitating a moral decay within our country.

If you watched, you know that it was a very tight match, tied 0-0 as the contest went into the 30-minute overtime period where the Belgians prevailed in a game that was still largely foreign to me in essence, but in which I certainly could discern one thing: the Belgians had a more aggressive team with the bulk of play occurring within the US side of the field of play.

timhowardSo, it did indeed seem that our boys were on their heels, and on the defensive for the bulk of the 120 minutes of play, which was enough time for goalie Tim Howard to deflect no fewer than 16 shots at the goal.

Which it turns out, is a World Cup game record.

I was keenly aware at how reactive and adept Howard was during play, and was pretty amazed by his agility, but until it was noted that Howard set the record, I took his play as much for granted as did Cathy and I dismiss Mt. Rainier.

Still, with the attack of the Belgians, I was indeed surprised the game stayed knotted and went as long as it did, not that I wanted to be a purveyor of doom, but rather as an objective casual observer, it just seemed their team was better on that day.

As I also mentioned in last week's piece, I am not a fan of basketball.

However, back in the early 90's, I truly tried to be.

Along with three friends, we bought a share of Warriors season tickets, so I got to see ten or so games a year for a couple of years, and during that time the Golden State team was poised for greatness it seemed, with Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin on the squad, along with Billy Owens and the team's #1 draft pick, Chris Webber.

As it happened, when we divvied up tickets during Webber's rookie season, I drew the game against the Orlando Magic, wanting to see their #1 selection Shaquille O'Neal in action.

Well, that game, between the Warriors and the Magic, was easily the most exciting sporting even I have ever attended.

With something around a minute left, Golden State was down by five points, and though Shaq had dominated, he fouled out, and with timeouts and fouls and other gyrations, that final minute took about ten minutes of actual clock time to wind out, with the Warriors pulling out a victory, 117-116 if memory serves, blocking a shot that was in the air as the buzzer sounded in a play several of the more sophisticated fans around me claimed was goaltending.

I did know the game well enough to agree, and no one called the foul, but it was indeed intense as virtually everyone within the Coliseum was on their feet during those final ten minutes of play.

I could have been hooked right there, forever as a basketball fan, but unfortunately--and if you follow hoops you might remember this--the Warriors front office mismanaged their players and roster and coaches so badly after that so the team which seemed so great and promising turned into the worst kind of disappointment.

Disgusted by the waste, I told my friends the following year I was no longer interested in supporting a bunch of lamebrains who could not manage a handful of uber talented kids to success.

So, I walked away from hoops, just like I will walk away, for the most part, from soccer despite that great effort earlier in the week.

If nothing else, my perspective has been as skewed as seeing Mt. Rainier that May day back in 1997.

For, I shall be disappointed if every soccer match I watch is not a 2-1 120-minute nail biter.

That said, Ms. Coulter can rest assured that my moral fiber is no more distorted today than it was to start the week.

Just that and well played Team USA: you did us proud.

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