July 2014


Their Cup Runneth Over



(Note: This piece originally ran last month in Artists Without Walls,


This is the quadrennial year for the World Cup in which about 3,200 countries (32 actually… it only seems that way to this bystander who doesn’t really “get” this sport), will compete for supremacy in the world of Soccer. This is serious stuff. And there literally could be blood, as there once was for a poor guy who came up short in the contest.

Los Angeles Times, July 3, 1994


BOGOTA, Colombia — Angry at Colombia's elimination from the World Cup soccer tournament, gunmen Saturday shot and killed Andres Escobar, the player who accidentally scored a goal against his own side in a match with the United States and helped seal the team's fate, police said.

Mr. Escobar’s fatal boo boo was the equivalent of half of the only two goals the U.S. would score by their own feet (or heads) over the course of the four games they played that year! Which brings me to a question I have vocalized on several occasions to devotees of the sport —much to my own peril: how can you follow a sport in which scoring occurs about as frequently as a solar eclipse?


There is such a profound imbalance between offense and defense, that not only is it hard to score, but so too, is even the potential to score. It is not uncommon to see a goalie only have to make about three saves an entire game. In another low scoring sport, hockey, New York Ranger Goalie Henrik Lundqwist made an astounding 48 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss in the Stanley Cup final last month.


Of course in hockey, they are on skates and can move up and down a rather compact rink at speeds of almost 30 MPH. In soccer, men in cleats have to traverse a field larger than the state of Delaware, with the opposing goals being in different area codes.


“All Americans care about is scoring,” I’ve been ‘castigatingly’ told. “You have to appreciate the footwork and ball control.”


If I wanted to watch great ball control without the use of hands, I would watch a seal balancing a ball on its nose. Though come to think of it, with the Ed Sullivan Show long gone, where could I actually get to see that these days?


Here I am making sport of another guy’s sport, one played around the globe, while I have waxed unabashedly poetic and philosophic and even theological, on the wonder and beauty of baseball. Which for many, is a game that can bore them to tears for its being far too slow moving and ungoverned by a clock. So while acknowledging my chauvinism on the matter, I turn my attention to time and clock, and the Alice in Wonderland way in which they are handled in soccer.


Time in a soccer game is not real, but alleged. While claiming to play for ninety minutes, those minutes include: time that the ball is knocked out of bounds and therefore out of play …the time that expires as teams leisurely set up for corner kicks and penalty kicks and the like… the stoppage of play by a referee’s whistle for some infraction, which is then often contested by the perpetrator as if doing a scene from Pagliacci…the team celebrations of hugging, kissing, rending of garments, and in general, going into seizures over the sheer improbability over what has just occurred—a goal! And all the while the clock keeps ticking…


Of course if a player is seriously injured to the point where he must be carried off the field, or given last rites, they will add a few minutes to the contest in compensation. Though that too will be inexact and rounded off, and there will be no counting down of seconds by the fans as the game nears its end, as you will get in other clock-sports. No one really knows when the end is near. Suddenly, a whistle blows. Game. You would think that in a sport where it is already so daunting a task to score a goal, not a precious second would go uncounted.


But all that aside, the World Cup is a spectacle. And spectacles are fun. And who doesn’t like a spectacle? (Aside from maybe a participant from Columbia.). And I’ll tune in if it gets interesting as the Cup moves along towards its finale on July 13th. I’ve been known to watch Synchronized Swimming if the U.S. was closing in on another Gold. My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of dominancy. Of thee I sing.


Yet, when “we” won that first game against Ghana 2-1 last month, while scoring the fastest American goal ever in World Cup history at the 32-second mark, and a soccer bar’s window in Seattle was shattered (Reckless in Seattle?), I wondered if a record was broken along with that window for the Jerkiest Sports Bar Moment for a game that decided nothing.


Imagine if the U. S. of A. were somehow, one day, ever to win one of these things what might break out?


The odds of that happening this year, as of this soliloquy, were about 250-1 according to London bookies. Who of course drive on the wrong side of the road.

And for all my issues with the sport and its culture, I will continue to root, root, root for the home team: USA!USA!USA! And… If they don’t win it’s a shame … In which case—though a soccer atheist— I pray that Italy does.








Quote(s) of the Month



Wherein creative lightning strikes twice? Or is it a case of what might oxymoronically be called self-plagiarism?


                                                                                                                                          Photo by Ron Vazzano©


“Halcyon days like boats drifting along slow-moving rivers, spring evenings full of a plaintive melancholy that made the past beautiful and bitter, bidding them look back and see that the loves of other summers long gone were dead with the forgotten waltzes of their years.”


                    — F. Scott Fitzgerald
                                             The Beautiful and the Damned (1922)

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”


                     — F. Scott Fitzgerald
                          The Great Gatsby (1925)







The Cape Beckons



As you cut through the Long Island Sound, then cruise within sight of the Rhode Island shoreline, you finally arrive at the Vineyard in plenty of time to toil among those cracking lobster while cracking wise; the shellfish eaters gathered at the rail at Nancy’s hugging harbor.


The night will be full of stars, seemingly in view for the first time in years, not counting the Hollywood kind who used to flood your local Starbucks in a past life; dim lights mingling over lattes.


And this alone is worth a toast: a summer night of slipping out of town, to look up to see a real sky, unfiltered by urban distortions. How many such nights as these go by un-tasted? Uncelebrated? Moored to the dock of the daily grind? And yes, how much bad poetry do such nights inspire? But you write it anyway and beg forgiveness later, while sipping a dry martini.


And while you experience much of the “usual wonder” this New England getaway has to offer, of particular note on this go round, are visits to the Edgartown Harbor Light (a lighthouse not opened to the public on a last visit here four years ago) and Chappaquiddick. These might be called light and dark sides in the Vineyard’s history.

The lighthouse was first built in 1828…then destroyed following a hurricane and rebuilt in 1939… then when threatened with demolition decades later, restored by a civic group consisting of movers, shakers, Kennedy’s and other brand name celebrities, in 1988.


Lighthouses in general in the U.S. are an endangered species, and you wonder why such totems of national heritage haven’t been treasured. Looking out from atop this one on a dry clear summer’s day, is a small celebration in being alive.

The trek to Chappaquiddick is another story. This one of prose and of dying. But you go all the same, not in the interest of the macabre, but rather to get a sense for yourself, as to how a man— albeit one seemingly inebriated and in search of a place for a quick tryst— could wind up driving his car into the drink, and in the process killing a young girl named Mary Jo Kopechne. And also in the process, perhaps changing the course of U.S. history.


Debarking from a five minute ferry ride from Edgartown, you walk three miles ending up on a dirt road, and there it is, Dyke Bridge: the scene of the crime. And it still seems a rather dangerous place where one would not want to be in the dead of night, even though it is now railed and widened as it wasn’t in that July of 1969. At least if one were to judge by the absence of lights and the warning signs on each side of the foot of the bridge.


When you reach the other side, you are further warned that there could still be live ammunition shells about, as the area once served as a US Naval practice bombing range until 1996. And as a matter of civic duty, one is directed to report anything resembling the pictures of undetonated bombs, posted on a public information board.


Having seen enough, you hitch a ride back to the ferry compliments of a local resident. They have become accustomed to such pilgrimages that end in weary feet and puzzled heads, still pondering some unanswered questions. Bless them for their graciousness.


There will be more of the Kennedy lore, as you would once again ferry on another day—almost an hour this time— over to Hyannis, which once served as the setting for the summer White House. There you would visit the John F. Kennedy Museum; a paean to the man in a series of photos and home movies, emphasizing the so called Camelot days. Days that are now of an ancient time, when the world was young and all things seemed possible.


But truth be told, you are also in town to catch a game of the home team Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the famed Cape Cod Baseball League. One out of every six current major leaguers once played there in their developmental years. You watch from a perch in the press box alongside this young man doing the play-by-play. He happens to be your son. Can the Kennedy clan, still of course very much a local presence, top that?


All too soon, the trip is done. You will go home the old fashioned way— by plane. Time and tide wait for no man. Your ship has sailed.


The Cape has always beckoned city dwellers in search of a summer haven out of the city. Or at least since the end of the 19th century. And to paraphrase the closing lines from every episode of a TV series of the late 50’s/early 60’s… “There are eight million escapes from the naked city. This has been one of them.”







Liberal Lamentations: A Fugue in Bb for Four Old Friends

                           —an extraction from an actual on-line exchange of June 9, 2014



We were all so Liberal back in the day.
     I have had it with the current administration.
          Everything Obama and Hillary and their minions do, is political—
               Neither side speaks truth to me. Or at least what I have seen with my own eyes.


I was for Hillary from the beginning; thought she was the better man—
     Until these past few weeks, I’d been thinking that all this administration criticism…
          The Democratic Liberal wing clearly doesn’t care about the nation,
                I’m probably a Conservative Liberal or maybe a Liberal Bigot.


I'm coming in late on this. I hardly ever check this email address.
     Was all a figment of Fox network’s imagination— now I’m questioning my beliefs.
          And the American people are incredibly gullible sheep.
               All the more reason I live the hermit life, in my proverbial "lighthouse".


I use it when my main one is on the fritz. Who says “on the fritz” who’s under a 100?
     Didn't mind them monitoring my E-mails. But that VA situation? Absolute disgrace.
          ACA fails —proclaim it a success. Benghazi/foreign policy —make it a positive.
               My anger with the administration is a lot stronger on that issue.


Regarding that deal, was there a terrorist or deserter to be named later?
     We are trading 5 guys who look like they will be blowing us up in a matter of weeks,
          I'd like Wally Moon as my avatar (note: onetime Major League baseball star).
               As Woody would say, “what does this have to do with sex (or the Triangle)?”


It looks like the worst trade since Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock.
     But I’m willing to let the Hostage deal play out. I’m just becoming aware of the details.
        As was the case with the last misguided socialist, FDR, the worm eventually turns;
               We all have our beliefs. To be determined. And rarely black and white.


We were all so Liberal back in the day.
     I really thought Obama and his administration would be different,
          You can only hide your failures for so long.
               I am not sure which side has the better liars,


Nixon, maybe not such a bad guy after all? Watergate, heavy on Nam, but what the hell.
     It seems that nothing has changed; politics coming before humanity and compassion.
          It's all in the spin, and the Dems are clearly better liars and fear mongers.
               But I’m convinced both sides are far better at lying to themselves than to me;


The Kennedys were falling all over themselves, seeing in Obama, JFK incarnate.
     Last and only time I voted Republican, was for William Buckley for mayor of NYC,
           The Republicans are in a lifeboat and don't want any more passengers;
               Though the current version of Republican politics is rife with insanity and evil.


I voted for Javits, Rockefeller and local GOP hacks who might get me out of the draft.
     I figured Lindsay would be a disaster and bankrupt the city which he eventually did.
          The Democrats are also in a lifeboat and will take on passengers until it sinks.
               Exhausted my meager knowledge of anything going on outside my lighthouse.


Snail mailed some bills today (no, you bastards, I’m not going paperless!).
     The prisoner’s father was praising Allah in the press conference.
          Some of us recall that our grandparents emigrated legally to America "on the boat."
               Chiti was acquired by the Mets from Cleveland for a player to be named later.


We We We We
     were were were were
          all all all all
               so so so so
                     Liberal Liberal Liberal Liberal
                          back back back back
                               in in in in
                                    the the the the
                                         day day day day.



                                                           —Ron Vazzano







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