That damn chant.
“I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win ...” Over and over.
And the thing is, as a country we did believe it, almost. Because we’re Americans and how often are we the underdogs at anything? Even when our own coach thinks we don’t have a chance, even when one of best strikers Jozy Altidore is out, there was hope we could beat Belgium.
Yesterday at Geno’s restaurant, whole families, bros and people who probably called into work sick all gathered together decked out in red, white and blue to cheer on the home team. With the sun shining brightly, people cheered for every minute. Every time we nearly made a goal there was clapping, every time a call went our way there was hooting, every time goalkeeper Tim Howard deflected the ball — which appeared to be every other second — we shouted in unison. In general, the atmosphere was positive, no hollers about how much Belgium sucked or our distaste for waffles.
When that second Belgian goal ripped through during overtime, though, things became positively forlorn. No one spoke. Our team came back as 19-year-old Julian Green hammered in one goal, but to no avail.
America freaking lost.
But Howard played one heck of a game, so much so he set a World Cup record for the most saves in one game, 16, since the stat has been tracked — this led to the US Secretary of Defense Wikipedia page being changed to Howard’s mug before it was caught. The reaction on Twitter was especially creative. Some amazing tweets included:
@TVMcGee This Howard's End made me more depressed than the Merchant-Ivory version. #WorldCup2014
@fuggirls You can't say we didn't go down swinging. Tim Howard shouldn't have to buy a beer again. EVER. - J #USA
(Inlander’s own) @danieltwalters Expecting this game to look like we barely pulled it out somehow, then Howard's skull is crushed by The Mountain.
@FigDrewton Tim Howard doesn't have Twitter followers because he blocks everyone
My heart still hurts. I wanted us to defeat Belgium so bad. But as the dust settles one day later, the exciting thing here is that after surviving the Group of Death we made the Top 16 in the world, and that is nothing to be embarrassed about. In a World Cup that saw traditional powerhouses like Spain, Italy and England not even clear their groups, we persevered.
Americans don’t care as much about soccer as the rest of the world. When Mexico or Brazil wins a match the entire country takes the next day off due to hangover. It is not ingrained in us. But as ratings for this World Cup have blasted past the homegrown sports TV ratings and as Major League Soccer continues to grow and draw crowds, it appears change is on the horizon.
So who’s still in this?
Brazil, Argentina, Germany (Go Deutschland!) and Costa Rica are who I’m predicting for the Final 4, but absolutely anything can happen. The Top 8 will play Friday and Saturday, and even though USA is out, I bet people will still watch. The final match will be played Sunday, July 13.
Here’s to 2018 and the great Tim Howard!
On Sunday, the city and surrounding area of Coeur d’Alene turned into what women’s winner, Heather Wurtele, called “the easiest and hardest Ironman.” More than 2,460 athletes battled through choppy waters for the 2.4-mile swim, then biked through strong winds for the 112-mile bike ride and completed the 26.2-mile run. The weather was cool and breezy, perfect for the athletes competing this year. Andy Potts won the men’s professional division with a time of 8:25:44 and Wurtele won on the women’s side with a time of 9:34:32.
On Saturday, the streets of downtown Spokane turned into the street basketball headquarters of the world, with 42 city blocks taped over for the nearly 7,000 teams expected to play in the 25th Hoopfest. Players and spectators alike enjoyed the sun and cool breeze that swept through downtown all day.
The Spokane Indians started this season off in a way they have not since 1997, extending their season-opening win streak to three games on Fathers Day against the Eugene Emeralds, 5-2, at Avista Stadium. Pitcher Derek Thompson struck out five batters during the game.
Families flocked to Avista Stadium for the 3:30 pm game attended by 4,334 people. All fathers in attendance stood and received a warm round of applause from their loved ones.
The Indians will hope to clench a fourth win on Monday against the Emeralds. The game will begin at 6:30 pm.
Are we tired of these professional sports fandom maps yet? Seeing the island of Seahawks fans here in the Northwest was fun given the way the Super Bowl turned out, and the MLB map confirmed Yankees-haters’ worst fears. They’re everywhere. But now, with the NBA playoffs, we’ve got a map of professional basketball fandom — and with the SuperSonics long gone, it’s clearly a sore spot for the Northwest.
Just look at that vast lavender swath of sorta-Lakers-fans, which seems to be the default for any part of the country without a team. When it comes to basketball allegiance, Seattle’s in the same aimless group as the Dakotas.
This is partially a limitation of the data being used, since it measures Facebook “Likes” of teams’ official pages. But a whole section (scroll to the bottom) is devoted to poor Seattle, which has not happily adopted the Trail Blazers.
Northwest fans seem to be holding out for the day when the perennial rumors about a new team come true, even after hopes have been dashed again and again. Speculation started up all over again when new NBA commissioner Adam Silver took over in February, but he quickly clarified that the league isn’t planning to add teams anytime soon. And, just today, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told the Seattle Times that there’s no proposal or anything solid at this point. Keep on hoping, NBA fans.
I say "fan" because a) being a Mariners fan is to subject oneself to the sort of heartache that can only result from the type of play Seattle's low-scoring, injury-prone team gives us and b) the study uses Facebook "likes" as its sole source of information. Believe it or not, there are people who don't like their favorite baseball team's Facebook page. Also, some fans don't even use Facebook.
Regardless, the map gives us an awesome county-by-county look into the baseball allegiances of our nation. As it turns out, a lot of people like the Yankees, which is disheartening. It's fine to like the Yankees if you're from the greater New York area or your parents or grandparents were Yankee fans, but for the 14 percent of Facebook users in Gallatin County, Montana, who make the Yankees that county's favorite club? No, not cool. I often liken this to watching Rocky IV and cheering for Ivan Drago.
Here in Spokane County, 43 percent of Facebook users prefer the Mariners. The Red Sox came in second, followed by, you guessed it, the Yankees. If you really zoom in, you can see how each zip code identifies.
Play around with that map. It's pretty fun. What you notice about this immediately is that the Mariners' Nation is remarkably large in geographical terms. But that's not that useful for the franchise because cows and evergreen trees don't watch baseball.
The first game of the four contests at the Spokane Arena is in the books and it was a good one.
Twelfth-seeded Harvard pulled off a shocker and downed fifth-seeded Cincinnati by a score of 61-57. Because people love an underdog, the Spokane crowd was behind the Crimson for pretty much the whole game as they maintained a slim lead over the Bearcats throughout the entire contest. In the end, it was Harvard's defense that won the game, holding Cincy to just 37 percent shooting.
The weird thing about this game was that it was an upset for sure, but Harvard looked like the better team for most of the contest. They didn't look small or unathletic. They straight outplayed Cincy.
On the court now, the Michigan State Spartans are showing why so many folks have them winning the whole thing in their brackets, even if Delaware is hanging in there. The Spartans have a 44-33 lead on Delaware at halftime.
And here are some other things that happened today...
THE HARVARD BAND
If you go to Harvard, you're probably a smart person. That's kind of their thing — being smart. And some of those smart people make up the Harvard pep band, which was on hand for this morning's contest.
They played some Top-40 hip hop in their set, with some added flair. They also looked downright awesome doing it. If you didn't know any better, you'd think they just came from pumping up the crowd at a Hogwart's quidditch match (yeah, I know my Harry Potter). Their blazers and ties are the sort of class you'd expect from Harvard, which also brought with them a sizable cheering section.
Whether it was the band or not, the Spokane Arena sided with Harvard today. When time ran out and their win was final, you would have thought it was Gonzaga on the court by the way folks roared.
SPOKANE OR BUST
It's been awesome getting travel stories from all the fans who've descended on Spokane for the tournament. The best I've found so far is from nine guys from Westhope, North Dakota (a tiny town near the Canadian border) who drove all the way to Spokane in one push — all in one rented passenger van.
Anthony Lee is one of the guys who charged some 16 hours straight to cheer on his North Dakota State Bison in a game against Oklahoma later today.
"The second we heard that they were playing in Spokane, we decided we'd make the drive," says Lee.
He and his buddies haven't had a chance to see much of the town. They rolled up to their hotel, checked in and then came to the Arena. Hopefully they'll get some sleep in there sometime.
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