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Category: Teaching

Dialogue Practice

Daniel: Because you’re not the chosen brother, Eli. ‘Twas Paul who was chosen. See he found me and told me about your land, you’re just a fool.

Eli: Why are you talking about Paul? Don’t say this to me.

Daniel: I did what your brother couldn’t, I broke you and I beat you. It was Paul who told me about you, he’s the prophet, he’s the smart one. He knew what was there, he found me to take it out of the ground. You know what the funny thing is? Listen, listen, listen– I paid him $10,000 cash in hand, just like that. He has his own company now. Prosperous little business. Three wells producing $5000 a week.

Daniel: Stop crying, you sniveling ass! Stop your nonsense! You’re just the afterbirth, Eli, slithered out on your mother’s filth. They should have put you in glass jar on a mantelpiece. Where were you when Paul was suckling at his mother’s teat, eh? Where were you? Who was nursing you, poor Eli, one of Bandy’s sows? That land has been had, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s gone, had.

Eli: If you would just—

Daniel: You lose.

Eli: Take this lease, Daniel—

DanielDRAAAIIINNNNAGE! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry, I’m so sorry. Here: if you have a milkshake… and I have a milkshake… and I have a straw; there it is, that’s the straw, see? Watch it. My straw reaches across the room… and starts to drink your milkshake: I… drink… your… milkshake! I drink it up!

Eli: Don’t bully me, Daniel!

New Semester

Since my Metro class ended on Wednesday, it has been a non-stop whirlwind. More precisely, it feels like it has been a whirlwind. Any person with a normal job would scoff at me, but hey, I can’t help how I feel! I graded final papers, submitted grades, got my UNO materials, planned the whole semester, bought a bike, and started the new semester. I’m thankful that MCC doesn’t start again until after Labor day; it gives me a little time to catch up and hopefully plan out what is going to be an insane quarter. As a result of all this, I haven’ really had time to write anything.

I’m very excited about starting at UNO. It feels really good to be back on a university campus. I love teaching at Metro, but a university is just different. Although getting all the technical things straightened out has been a nightmare, the class itself should be good. University students are just a different breed than community college students. They’ve got more energy, more enthusiasm, less world weariness. They are looking for entirely different things out of their courses. Most community college students are returning to school or going to school for the first time after a long break after high-school. As a result, there is always a hint of trepidation, fear, and unknowing. I like that. It makes me approach the classes differently. My goal there is to build confidence and skills that will be useful as the progress. But at a place like UNO, you are dealing, for the most part, with what I like to call professional students. The more technical aspects of the course are less important (formatting, using a computer) and you can move more quickly to the good stuff: ideas, theories, style.

The Premier League also began last weekend with Arsenal drawing 0-0 with Sunderland. Naturally, the ignorant footy pundits came out blasting Wenger for (again) selling off his best players, but both of those players started in last season’s opener against Newcastle that also ended 0-0. We heard the same complaints after that game as we did this one: Arsenal wouldn’t be able to cope without Fabregas and Nasri.

Once this team has time to settle, I have no doubts that they will be significantly better than they were last season. Yes, losing RVP is a devastating hit; but Wenger has lessened that blow through a more proactive and crude off-season. While we still have no idea how Podolski or Giroud will play out, I think their potential is undeniable. People forget it took RVP 7 years to really come good. More importantly, I think the way we have livened up our attacking options and the moves still pending (when will this Sahin deal go through!) makes this a much more threatening team.

First, Santi Cazorla is an undeniable upgrade. Last year, we really struggled to replace Fabregas. While Arteta is a wonderful player, he doesn’t really provide the daring creativity that Fabregas did. Cesc had a uncanny ability to see the pass that no one else saw and split defenses wide open (which makes the way he’s been used at Barcelona so disappointing). Wilshire also has the skillset, but his injury meant we couldn’t see it. Arteta just doesn’t have that daring in his style; most of his passes are fairly safe and short, which establishes our tempo but doesn’t directly create openings. That left Song to fill the creative gap, which he did well enough, but that often forced him out of position in the back. I think Cazorla allows Arteta to play the role he’s comfortable in while also allowing whoever plays DM (Diaby in the opener, possibly Coquelin as we move forward) to stay further back.

I’m also excited to see Wenger employ Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with more frequency. For me, he is our most exciting player and the team really lifts when he’s on the pitch. His performances at the Euros makes it difficult to keep him off the pitch if he’s healthy. If the Sahin deal goes through, I think that opens the door for Walcott to leave next summer which is no real loss in my mind. He was beyond terrible on Saturday. Regardless, with the Sahin move, we’ve got as exciting an attacking midfield as is in the league. With the chances they should be creating, I think Podolski and Giroud will do well to fill the gap left by the Traitor. Between those four new options, I think his 30 goals will be picked up easy enough.

Overall, I think we should be a comfortable top 4 team, fighting with Chelsea for third. I’d like to see us use the depth we are creating in the midfield to make a run in one of the cups. It would be so nice to win some silverware and shut the haters up. Wenger was held to the fire with Fabregas, Nasri, and RVP, but he deserves some recognition for what he has done with the resources available to him. If any other manager was at Arsenal, we would have slipped out of the Champion’s League long ago. I’ll take the way we’ve handled our business any day over the oil money billions used to prop up City, Chelski, or PSG.

Up the Arsenal!

Day 41: 50 Word Fiction

My Comp I class is getting ready to complete their first assignment of the quarter, a series of micro-narratives of 250 words each. To prepare them for writing under specific word length constraints, I gave them the shorter assignment of writing 50 word fiction stories. Yesterday, we read a few of them in class and I was really happy with how they turned out. There is something about putting strict guidelines on your writing that forces you to be creative and approach simple ideas in new ways. I wrote a couple myself and I want to show the process I went through here.

I have the most fun writing fiction when I’m not quite sure what I’m going to write. I usually just start with a phrase and see where it goes. For whatever reason, my first phrase was: “Since 1982, Thomas had been sure that someone was following him.” Here’s my first full entry.

Since 1982, Thomas had been sure that someone was following him. In ’84, he had darted in front of a speeding bus, avoiding the round surely zooming towards his chest. In ’93, he had preemptively assaulted the homeless man on his block, staving off assassination for one more day. (49 words)

I liked the idea that Thomas was paranoid and was doing ridiculous things based on this paranoia. Jumping in front of a bus is nuts, and beating up homeless dudes is psychotic. But there is no conclusion to this story. I’m already near 50 words and I want this to be complete.

Since 1995, Thomas had been sure that he was being followed. He had eluded agent bullets on Dodge in ’97 by darting through afternoon traffic, and escaped a deadly nerve gas by holding his breath and jumping out of a 3rd story window in ’02. Jackson wasn’t concerned. He had all the time in the world. (56)

The second entry, I did a couple things. First, I made the year more recent thinking that would help me get through the narrative faster. Second, I took out the attack on the homeless man because it was too intense. I wanted it to be lighthearted. Finally, I added the twist at the end showing that he really was being followed. These short fiction pieces work really well with a little Shymalan thrown in.

Since 1995, Thomas had been sure that he was being followed. He had eluded Agent bullets on Dodge in ’97 by darting through afternoon traffic, and escaped a nerve gas attack in ’02 by jumping out of a 3rd story window. Jackson wasn’t concerned. He had all the time in the world. (52)

Just a couple changes here, trying to get word count down. First, I capitalized Agent. I thought that made it feel a little more neurotic and crazy (with the obvious Matrix allusions). Second, I took out him holding his breath. Jumping out a window is crazy enough; holding his breath is redundant.

Since 2001, Thomas had been sure that he was being followed. In ’03, he eluded Agent bullets downtown by darting through afternoon traffic, and escaped a nerve gas attack in ’07 by jumping out of a third story window. Jackson, though, wasn’t concerned. He had all the time in the world. (51)

Here, I’ve done a couple things. First, I changed my year to 2001. This was an obvious move that I’m sad took me this long to see. It gives a basis to his paranoia (and establishes that it is just paranoia) and sets up my twist much better. Second, I moved my preposition “In ’03” to the beginning of the sentence. The last entry just had an awkward flow to it. This breaks up the rhythm more. I also added the “though” following Jackson. Again, this is just a rhythm thing. Finally, I changed Dodge to downtown to universalize it a bit.

Since 2001, Thomas had been sure that he was being followed. In ’03, he eluded Agent bullets downtown by darting through afternoon traffic, and escaped an anthrax attack in ’07 by jumping out of a third story window.

Jackson, though, wasn’t concerned. He had all the time in the world. (50)

I needed to cut one word. Really, changing my origin to 2001 made this change obvious. Instead of nerve gas attack I’ve used anthrax, hinting at the attacks in 2001 that killed 5 people. I also paragraphed it here. I just wanted a little reading time before we got to the twist.

Day 40: Magic Goldfish

First, legendary comic book artist Jean Giraud (Moebius) passed away. Although his comic stuff is difficult to get your hands on, if you’ve seen Blade Runner or The Fifth Element, you’ve seen his influence. His work is stunning whether you like comic books or not.

I’m teaching Composition I again this quarter, which is always a fun class. Because it is sort of loosely defined in terms of goals, I can really play around with the content. The book is fairly boring, so I try to throw in things that I would enjoy reading (knowing full well my tastes do not always sync with those of my students). If I don’t enjoy the material I’m teaching, I can’t ever expect my students to. So, we will be reading a full comic (Grant Morrison’s Animal Man #5), watching the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode of Community, and doing some interesting (hopefully) in-class stuff.

My first assignment of the quarter, though, is always a simple one. I have them read a short-story by Etgar Keret titled “What, of This Goldfish, Would You Wish?” It is a story about a young Israeli film-maker named Yonatan who decides to travel around the country asking as many people as he can what they would wish for if they had a magic goldfish. His dream is to find an old, frail Arab man who will simply ask for peace. Then, Yonatan can sell the film, maybe to a bank. The twist happens when he knocks on the door of Russian immigrant Sergei, who, unbeknownst to Yonatan, actually has a magic goldfish. Sergei thinks that Yonatan knows about his goldfish and kills him out of fear. Then, the goldfish tries to convince him to use his one remaining wish to save the filmmaker.

I then have my students answer the title of the essay: if they had a magic goldfish that granted three wishes, what would they wish for? I love this as a first assignment because there is no better way to find out about your students than to learn their deepest wishes. You quickly learn about upbringing, economic standing, worldview, etc. Shockingly, many students ask for very simple things: money to get through school, a good job, a nice house. Given only the limits of their imagination, they ask for simple comfort. Beautiful. Other students really push themselves and go for more philosophical ideas like wisdom, clairvoyance, and other superhero inspired powers. Others go predictable: fame and fortune.

Here are my wishes, with rudimentary explanations.

1) Incredible wealth. This is my practical wish. I think it allows me to cover a lot of other wishes: owning Arsenal, retirement for me, Lizz, and both our families, travel, etc. I guess I’m always shocked when my students don’t ask for this.

2) Time and location teleportation. The strongest emotion I ever feel is nostalgia. The curious thing is that I’m nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced. Time-travel gives me the ability to see the places and things my entrapment in the present has denied me. The location teleportation would allow Lizz and I to live in Seattle and Paris and London and not worry about airplanes and seeing our families.

3) Interstellar civilization. I love the idea of humanity spreading out into the galaxy, setting up new worlds, interacting with different species (should they exist), and generally recreating Star Wars. I guess this wish is my gift to humanity. You’re welcome, species. In combo with wish number 2, I’m seeing it all.

Day 32 – Research Paper Rough Draft

My students have their rough drafts due today, which means my rough draft is due today. There is a lot I want to change, much I want to cut down, and some I want to remove altogether. That is the beauty of a rough draft.

Soccer in America (I like catchy titles, what can I say?)

            The New Jersey Meadowlands was packed to capacity. Fans clad in green walked to their seats, beginning their songs long before opening kickoff. As the teams entered the field, the stadium rocked as the cheers and singing overwhelmed the  announcers. It was a thrilling game decided in overtime. But these 80,000 fans were not there to see the New York Jets or Giants play football, but Mexico and Guatemala square off in the semi-finals of soccer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Meanwhile, the United States, in the same tournament, played in front of nearly 1/3 of the people that had shown up in New Jersey. For the entirety of the tournament held in American stadiums, Mexico’s games continually saw higher attendances and were held in higher capacity venues than those of the Americans. Although the attendees of these games were primarily Latin immigrants finally able to see their home teams on American soil, the disparity in support highlights the difficulties soccer has had in gaining the attention of the American public. While soccer is overwhelmingly the most popular sport in most European, African, and Latin American countries, it has failed to attract similar popularity in America and lags far behind other team sports like football, basketball, baseball, and hockey in terms of attendance, revenue, media attention, and success. Soccer’s inability to find the level of support and popularity in America that it does abroad can be traced to the very development of the sport here. The cultural, regional, and ideological roots that have made soccer so popular abroad have failed to take root in America and the game continues to be seen as a “foreign” enterprise.

The sport America now calls soccer has been existed in England in some form since the Middle Ages. For centuries, it was played in a variety of styles until the London Football Association (LFA) finally agreed upon a standardized set of rules in 1863. In 1870, the first International soccer match was played between England and Scotland, in 1871, the first FA Cup tournament was held, and in 1888, the first English Football League began play (Szymanski and Zimbalist). Surprisingly, soccer has an equally long, and sometimes longer, official history in America as well. The first recorded competitive American game was held in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers, although what was played only superficially resembles the sport as it exists today and many people also claim it as the first competitive American football game (Van Rheenan). Ironically, America even had a professional soccer league before the British after the American Football Association (AFA) formed in 1884, and the nation’s longest running cup, the National Challenge Cup (now the U.S. Open Cup) began competition in 1913 (Wangerin).

Although it shares a history as old or even older than the sports that currently dominate the American consciousness, soccer has been plagued by a series of false-starts and dead ends. The AFA quickly fell apart to be replaced by the equally unstable American Soccer League (ASL). The league enjoyed modest success through the 1920s by luring foreign players with lucrative contracts, and the sport, it seemed, was on its way. But political infighting, poor organization, and the onset of the Great Depression destroyed any chances the league had to rival baseball, America’s most popular pastime (Wangerin). Soccer continued primarily as an amateur sport, with leagues like the San Francisco Soccer and Football League enjoying modest, local success with teams comprised of primarily recent immigrants (Van Rheenan).

The next significant development in American soccer was the creation of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968. In the mid-70s, the league saw enormous success as teams like the New York Cosmos signed some of the most famous players in the world, most notably Brazilian legend Pelé. For a while, the team regularly played in front of 70,000 fans, but as Ian Scott notes, “the NASL was relying on an increasingly superficial audience for an increasingly superficial existence” (842). After Pelé’s retirement in 1977 and the league’s failure to renew its television contract with ABC in 1982, support dwindled and the league eventually collapsed under a weight of political infighting and bankruptcy (Scott).

In the wake of 1994 World Cup hosted in America, there was yet another attempt to professionalize soccer domestically. Major League Soccer (MLS) began as a 10 team league in 1996. Today, there are 18 clubs in th United States and Canada, with more being planned (Scott, 844). Like the NASL, the league has attempted to bolster popularity by recruiting famous players like David Beckham and Thierry Henry to play in the waning years of their career. But unlike the NASL, the league has managed to overcome significant hurdles to maintain and even grow its fanbase. The MLS has done well to place its roots firmly in domestic player development, individualized stadium construction, and an equalizing draft system. As a result, after 15 years of play, the MLS is only growing in popularity (Scott). But this success must remain in context. Soccer is nowhere near as popular as the other major American sports. Its attendance, television and advertising revenue, and journalistic coverage still lag far behind baseball, basketball, football, and arguably hockey. Despite its historical roots in America, soccer is still treated as a “foreign” sport.

The perception of soccer as a “foreign” sport has been the largest stumbling block to it becoming a popular American pastime. While modern commentators continue to make this claim, it has actually been present since soccer began in this country and the United States has a long history of “Americanizing” foreign sports. David Wangerin writes, “Virtually from the time of the first organized games, the United States has been much more concerned with establishing its own existence and playing by its own rules than in joining any international fraternity” (16). When the AFA formed in 1884, baseball was the most popular sport in America. Baseball itself was a derivation of the British game cricket. Unlike the leisurely, aristocratic British game, baseball was played at a faster speed, the rules were simplified, and a greater emphasis was put on manliness and strength (Szymanski and Zimbalist).

In many ways, soccer underwent a similar transition. The first version of the game played in America was really a mixture of soccer and rugby. Players could catch the ball and even run while holding it. At the time, the game was played primarily in colleges, and Harvard was at the forefront of athletics. In 1874, they scheduled a match against Canadian school McGill University. An adaptation of the sport called the Boston Game was played which involved much more physical contact and handling of the ball. Wangerin writes, “From that moment on, American football never looked back.” They quickly set up matches against local schools and “Yale agreed that the handling game was much more hardy and scientific and, unable to resist the allure of a regular encounter with its nemesis, soon gave up on soccer.” For soccer, this was a tragic blow. Wangerin continues, “With two of the nation’s most influential institutions converted, it was only a matter of time before others followed” (21). Sure enough, the Americanized sports like baseball, football, and basketball did indeed leave soccer behind.

The decision of Harvard and Yale to abandon soccer also highlights the ideological difficulties the game had in establishing a foothold in America. As Wangerin notes, football was seen as a superior sport because it emphasized physical strength and scientific calculation. Each play was a new chance for the strategy and physical acumen of one team to overwhelm the other. Soccer, on the other hand, is an amorphous, liquid game that can go long spells without “anything” happening. Brian Phillips arguesthat soccer has more chaos and intangibles than any other sport, which leads to long periods of boredom.  American sports, on the other hand, attempt to minimize this chaos at all costs. In football, each play is followed by a short regrouping period. Teams are also given strict regulations: ten yards must be gained in four plays or the other team gets a chance themselves. Baseball emphasizes one on one confrontation between the pitcher and batter that is also governed by the strict, limiting rules of balls and strikes. Even basketball, which seems on its face to be the most soccer-like, enforces a strict shot-clock that governs how long a team can hold on to the ball. In soccer, a team could theoretically hold on to the ball for the entire game without ever even attempting to score.

The potential outcomes of a soccer match also fly in the face of most values Americans hold dear. Even those American commentators who support soccer have a difficult time accepting the possibility of a tied result. Rick Reilly, popular sports writer for ESPN, wrote of the World Cup, “In the NFL in the past 10 years, there have been two ties. As of Tuesday Morning, in the first 11 games of this World Cup [2010[, there have been five ties. You will not see more ties at a J.C. Penney’s Father’s Day Sale. I hate ties. Doesn’t anybody want to win in this sport?” A tie flies in the face of the most fundamental American and free-market beliefs: there are winners and there are losers. The better man (or product) will succeed. Just as no company wants to break even, no sports fan wants to see a tie. American sports, for their part, have worked to ensure this does not happen. Of sports played in America, only soccer and football allow for draws. Football, though, generally avoids ties by way of the possible permutations of its score lines and a sudden death overtime period (a tie has only been accepted as a possibility in football because of the dramatic threat of injury in extended games).

In soccer, ties have been accepted for a number of reasons. First, most leagues award a champion based on total accumulated points over a season (38 games in many top-flight leagues). A draw is awarded one point and thus adds to the overall score. For favored teams like Manchester United or Real Madrid, a draw is seen as a loss. For lower teams like Wigan or Osasuna, a draw against these teams is seen as a massive win. Second, draws are seen as crucial in opening up the tactical possibilities of the soccer. They allow physically outmatched teams to adopt a gameplan that can still achieve a successful result. Although they might not have the technical skill to threaten the opponents goal, if they are defensively solid and unified, they can still earn a point.

The importance of draws in soccer highlights a fundamental disagreement in how America and the world views competition. A draw gives smaller clubs a greater chance in achieving success while also creating a much smaller margin of error for teams with realistic chances of winning the title. For example, in the 2009/2010 Premier League Season, Chelsea and Manchester United both won 27 games, but Chelsea’s five draws to Manchester United’s four were the deciding factor in who was crowned Champion (similarly, in 2008/2009, Liverpool only lost twice, but there eleven draws to Manchester United’s six left them four points behind first place) (“League Table”). Unlike the NFL which sees a 9-7 team squeak in to the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl, soccer ensures that each game plays a significant role in the ultimate outcome.

The concept of a draw also feeds into a larger operating model of promotion and relegation that soccer uses around the world, something that has been rigorously avoided in America. Most leagues around the world (with the MLS as a notable exception), employ a system in which a country does not have merely one professional league, but a series of leagues that are hierarchically arranged into one system. In these countries, there is a system of promotion and relegation whereby the bottom three (or four) clubs in one league are demoted to the next league down on the totem pole. Likewise, the top 3 clubs from the lower league are promoted to the next higher league. What results is a fluid system by which small clubs, through hard-work, strong results, and adept player selection can see themselves move up into new echelons of competition, visibility, and profitability. Likewise, even large clubs can, through poor personnel decisions, underperformance, and even bad lack, find themselves demoted to lower leagues with lower profit potential, player recruitability, and prestige.

This system has also dramatically affected the business models of most clubs in world soccer. According to Szymanski and Zimbalist, “Promotion and relegation increase competition and decrease the long-term monopoly power of the big clubs […] It is a hypercompetitive system in comparison with a closed system [American leagues], and it shows in the relatively high profitability and low frequency of financial failure in the US majors than in the top European soccer leagues” (47). American sports like baseball have established themselves as closed systems that deter new entrants and emphasize the profitability of the brand. Clubs are treated like businesses, are owned by businessmen, and, through the consistency of the product and brand, have all but assured profitability. Furthermore, the draft system ensures that poor performing teams have first choice in the addition of new players which allows them to address weaknesses quickly. For example, the Detroit Lions went an unprecedented 0-16 in 2008 but were granted the first selection in the next draft. Now, just three seasons later, they earned their first trip to the Playoffs since 1999. In soccer, demotion to a lower league does not only affect prestige but also dramatically affects the profitability of the club. With television contracts and ticket prices, the difference between playing in the Premier League and the next-lower Championship can mean tens of millions of dollars. As a result, many clubs over-spend to keep themselves in their present league which has led to massive debt issues throughout world football.

The ideological battle between profitability and competitiveness is perhaps the single largest hindrance to soccer becoming as popular in America as it is around the globe. In America, sport has become a matter of profitability, whereas in soccer it is a matter of competition. The system of promotion and relegation speaks to this significance. The stability of American sports’ leagues assures continual income sources while the relegation/promotion system (and the added level of European competitions like the Champion’s League) keeps soccer clubs in a constant state of economic unpredictability. In addition, American sport franchises are, with few exceptions, located in large urban centers that can assure owners profitability. Owners have the ability to re-locate clubs to places that are more economically viable if they see fit. This does not occur in soccer. As a result, soccer clubs are much more intimately tied into their location. Unlike American sports franchises that are begun by owners, “most European clubs were not run by a single individual or corporation as they are now. They were run as associations with member’s dues and board elections. The members of a club wished to control the club’s affairs rather than allow the economic elite to manage them” (Benoit 535). Many clubs, as a result, became to represent the places where they were located, not only in terms of membership dues, but in terms of ethnicity, religion, politics, and ideology.

The ideological basis for many soccer clubs can account for the unrivaled, and to many Americans, off-putting passion of soccer fans. Macon Benoit writes that “the club became a symbol of importance for much of the local population. Support for the team was an expression of loyalty, and was construed to be support for the territory and the people who lived there” (535). Many clubs, as a result, were formed along very strict ideological lines. In Scotland, for instance, Celtic was formed as a Catholics-only football club by Irish-Scots, and Rangers was formed as a Protestants-only, Native-Scots football club. As a result of these ideological antagonisms, the rivalry has become one of the most passionate, violent, and contentious in world football. For Benoit, “the domestic game fed religious particularizing, political partisanship, and ethnic rivalry throughout Europe” (535). These ideological underpinnings help explain the perilous economic position of many teams in soccer. Because success is representative of the people themselves, profitability is often seen as a hindrance towards competitiveness and success. Clubs will do whatever it takes to win.

Regional allegiance to teams only intensified as the sport made itself international. America has only recently begun active exportation of its home-grown sports, which means, in general terms, that America still dominates those games on an international stage (many failures of American teams in these sports on an international stage can be accounted for by the use of amateurs [baseball] or other participation issues [basketball]). Soccer, on the other hand, was used by the British to open up and create allegiances in its colonial project. Szymanski and Zimbalist write, “[British ex-patriots] saw their sport as embodying the virtues of the nation and their class, and saw the spreading of their game as a kind of missionary work” (53). The simplicity of the game assured that even impoverished countries would be able to easily play the sport. In addition, “Soccer […] is sufficiently simple that it can admit to any number of styles of play, each of which can become the distinct property of a particular culture” (51). These styles of play then come to represent the ideological underpinnings of the nation itself. Brazil is known for their flare; Germany is known for their work-rate and organization; the Spanish are known for their intricate, artistic passing.

In the lead up to World War II, international matches became loaded with political significance. In one famous instance, the England Foreign Office forced the English team to perform the Nazi salute before their match with Germany in May of 1938. It was supposed to be a signal of peace and respect, although many players argued against the move. As tensions rose throughout Europe, “The national team ostensibly came to represent the entire nation, while the pitch became a surrogate battlefield on which mock war was waged, bringing citizens of a state together in victory or defeat” (Benoit 536). These allegiances only served to double the passion of most fans throughout the world.

Because of its historical, cultural, and ideological formations, soccer has became an integral part of daily life for much of the world. In America, these roots will never be able to be established. Our long isolation in terms of sport not only assures that it will be difficult to create a similar rivalry system in the sports we do cherish, but it also assures that a “foreign” sport like soccer will continue to play a marginalized role in the American sports landscape.

Works Cited

Benoit, Macon. “The Politicization of Football: The European Game and the Approach to the Second World War.” Soccer & Society 9.4 (October 2008): 532-550. Print.

“League Table.” Premier League, Premier League. 2011. Web. 9 February 2012.

Phillips, Brian. “Soccer’s Heavy Boredom.” Grantland, ESPN. 17 January 2012. Web. 9 February 2012.

Reilly, Rick. “World Cup Buzz Kill.” ESPN, ESPN. 15 June 2010. Web. 9 February 2012.

Scott, Ian. “From NASL to MLS: Transnational Culture, Exceptionalism and Britain’s Part in American Soccer’s Coming of Age.” The Journal of Popular Culture 44.4 (2011): 831-853. Print.

Szymanski, Stefan and Andrew Zimbalist. National Pastime. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2005. Print.

Van Rheenan, Derek. “The Promise of Soccer in America: the Open Play of Ethnic Subcultures.” Soccer & Society 10.6 (November 2009): 781-794. Print.

Wangerin, David. Soccer in a Football World: The Story of America’s Forgotten Game. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008. Print.

Day 29 – Annotated Bibliography

The next big step in the process of writing a research paper is compiling the annotated bibliography. Here’s mine.

Benoit, Macon. “The Politicization of Football: The European Game and the Approach to the Second World War.” Soccer & Society 9.4 (October 2008): 532-550. Print.

            Benoit traces the politicization of football as fascism spread across Europe before World War II. Domestic clubs had already formed around political, religious, and ethnic lines. Germany’s usurpation of many domestic leagues only strengthened this. Likewise, in the build-up to WWII, international matches gained a new importance. Previously, these matches had been fairly casual affairs with animosity at a minimum. But as the war neared, the matches added a new dimension. For Fascist powers like Italy, the performance of the Italian National Team signified the strength (or weakness) of the State. Likewise, a match between Germany and England became more about national identity than common sport.

            This essay will be extremely useful to me because it marks the transition from soccer as domestic pastime to international religion. It highlights how allegiances were solidified and the importance of the sport in national identity. Because America doesn’t have an equivalent of this in its major sports, we don’t see the same type of identification with sport. Likewise, the community allegiance to teams does not necessarily have a mirror in America which explains the type of fan each sport enjoys.  

Brown, Sean. “Fleet Feet: The USSF and the Peculiarities of Soccer Fandom in America.” Soccer & Society 8.2/3 (April/July 2007): 366-380. Print.

            Brown’s essay attempts to highlight the difficulty American soccer has in navigating between differing fanbases. On the one hand, participation in the sport is high. But these participators rarely turn into spectators. Most spectators of the sport are from urban centers and are generally first or second generation immigrants. As a result, he argues that the USMNT has difficulties scheduling games on American soil in which they won’t face a hostile crowd. In response, fan groups like Sam’s Army have organized to support the sport within America and to create a kind of fan that is both knowledgable, respectful, and loyal.

Brown’s essay will be useful for me in the way it highlights the complicated position the sport has in gaining “native” support in America. Although the argument feels incomplete to me, I think his analysis of support groups will be helpful in supporting my argument that the sport remains “foreign” and that many fans within America still hold to their native identities, which hampers the growth of the sport within the country.

Markovits, Andrei S. “Sports Fans Across Border: America from Mars, Europe from Venus.” Harvard International Review 33.2 (Summer 2011): 17-22. Print.

Markovitz argues that America’s sporting culture is significantly less violent, racist, and anti-cosmopolitan than Europe’s football culture because it has eliminated racist language as socially acceptable, sport’s teams are geographically dispersed which reduces tension, and sports teams are more closely aligned with business than political or social movements. He argues that as a result of the Civil Rights movement in America and the predominance of minorities in professional sports, the US has virtually eliminated racist chants and racial violence from stadiums. In Europe, the close proximity of clubs intensifies rivalries and leads to an increase in anti-Cosmopolitan (racist, xenophobic, classist) rhetoric. Additionally, America sports is so closely tied to business that it has been difficult to recreate the social and political identities that many European football clubs have.

Although my own paper will not be addressing violence in American or European sports, the root causes of this violence, as Markovits notes, will be useful. In particular, I think there is a clear connection to be made between the geographic location of clubs and the increased intensity of support. This was already a point I wanted to make. Likewise, the distance between American franchises means that even the most popular sports don’t enjoy the type of fan support that European clubs do. I think Markovits also does a good job of explaining just how intimately tied football clubs are to their location, not just in terms of sport, but economics, politics, and social movements. American sports can’t reproduce this, especially in soccer. If these types of things do happen with US soccer teams, it usually comes from enclaves of immigrants support (Chivas).

Scott, Ian. “From NASL to MLS: Transnational Culture, Exceptionalism and Britain’s Part in American Soccer’s Coming of Age.” The Journal of Popular Culture 44.4 (2011): 831-853. Print.

Scott argues that, although it will never achieve the same domestic success as baseball, basketball, and football, soccer in the United States has finally adopted a system that can become self-sustaining and even competitive internationally. He traces the history of the sport in America, particularly focusing on the demise of the NASL in the early 80s. For Scott, the NASL failed because it attempted to Americanize soccer. By sensationalizing the sport through superstars and neglecting up-and-coming domestic players, the league assured that soccer would only be a fad. The MLS, in contrast, has succeeded by minimizing its expectations, establishing firm roots in development (the MLS draft, competition), and adopting many foreign attributes that previous incarnations of the sport avoided because of American exceptionalism. The result is a league that continues to expand its popularity while managing expectations.

This source will be useful because it highlights the pitfalls soccer has fallen into in America. In particular, it notes the fact that soccer initially failed to collectivize itself which set it behind other American sports from the get-go. Likewise, it continued to be seen as “foreign” which marginalized its potential. By highlighting how soccer is finally starting to take a hold in America, he actually highlights what has made the sport so successful around the globe. This can highlight the roots of soccer globally and support my own position.

Van Rheenan, Derek. “The Promise of Soccer in America: the Open Play of Ethnic Subcultures.” Soccer & Society 10.6 (November 2009): 781-794. Print.

            Van Rheenan argues that, although still largely unpopular, soccer has a long and diverse history in America. The major tendency of those promoting the sport in America has been to “Americanize” the game itself, which actually led to the fall of the NASL. But, in small leagues like San Francisco’s Soccer Football League, the sport has provided an opportunity for immigrant ethnic groups to both insulate themselves and ultimately open up to multiculturalism. Here, the desire to win led once insulated clubs like the Greek-American Athletic Club to open their ranks to a variety of ethnicities and nationalities.

Van Rheenan’s article will be useful to me for a few reasons. It highlights the sense of soccer as an imported sport. Although he does mention many Americans who played, most of the clubs he talks about have been associated with immigrant populations. In addition,  it speaks to the insulated nature of soccer in the US. Although the Greek-American AC was one of the most successful in California and the country, most people have never heard of them. I had never heard of them, and I love soccer and even follow it domestically. So, I will really be using Van Rheenan against himself. While he argues that soccer helps immigrants integrate, he also seems to highlight the relegated nature of the sport in this country.

Day 27 – Research Paper Topic Selection

My clas is now moving into the final assignment of the quarter, the Research Paper. The first step of this project is to select a topic. I waited for my class to hand in their selections before I decided on mine, although I could have predicted that noone would select my topic as well.

I have chosen to write about soccer’s popularity in the United States. Although it is called “the World’s game”, soccer seems to only be relevant in the US during the World Cup. Why doesn’t America embrace soccer? Why does the rest of the world connect to it so strongly?

I selected this topic because I am a soccer fanatic. Although I enjoy most sports, soccer is the one I am most passionate about. But being an American makes it more difficult to stay engaged with the game. I’m interested in looking into socio-historical reasons to help explain why the United States has “refused” to embrace the game to the degree that Europe, Africa, and South America have. I’m also interested in looking at how the soccer fanbase is growing in America, especially in regards to a few MLS teams.This topic is very debatable. Many Americans argue that soccer isn’t popular because it is low scoring. Some say that it is because it is an “immigrant’s game.” Many others argue that soccer simply hasn’t embedded itself as fully into the American way of life as it has in Europe, Africa, and South America. While the differing points of view may not be overly contentious, there is definitely no unified argument.The topic is definitely big enough to warrant a 7-9 page paper. There are a number of different ways to approach my topic. I’m particularly interested in looking at the history of the game and how it integrated itself into European daily life. I’m also interested in comparing soccer’s style of play with the most popular American sports to see if there is maybe an answer there. Although, like most fandoms, soccer clubs can have an almost religious atmosphere around them, the topic will not rely on morality or religion.I have already found a number of significant articles discussing the topic from a variety of angles. Many articles that don’t necessarily discuss soccer’s popularity in America will still be useful because they address fandom in other settings. There are also a number of books written on the topic that will be useful.

Day 26 – Research Paper Notes

Research Paper Components

Framing – p. 277

This is the lens through which you present your issue. Framing narrows down your topic to the area you want to cover and presents the stakes. Framing occurs early in the essay, generally within the first paragraphs.

Thesis

Clearly presents your main idea. If I only read your thesis, I would know what stance you would be taking on your topic. Consider using “should (not)” and “because” to help flesh out your thesis. Example: The death penalty “should” be outlawed “because” it risks killing innocent people, it does not deter crime, and it costs states billions of dollars.

A Readable Plan – p. 269, 279

The readable plan is the spine and structure of your essay. This is the work you do to connect your main points together so that the reader is always clear about where they are in the argument, why they are there, and how the pieces all related together. Initially, the readable plan begins with the thesis sentence and follows with a forecast of what arguments will be addressed. It continues through the use of strong topic sentences that guide the writing/reading. These topic sentences, and the paragraphs themselves, should stay consistent in key terms so that arguments are always clear. BE EXPLICIT

Support – p.268

A research paper cannot simply be an outline of main arguments. Those arguments must be supported with well-reasoned argument and strong evidence. Evidence should be used when declarative statements are not universally known to be true. A citation is not needed to explain that Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska; it is needed to say that Lincoln has a population of X. Next, the sources must be reliable. If you have even the slightest hesitation about the source, you should generally avoid it. If you can only find one source that says something, you might want to reconsider it.

Counter-Arguments – p.268, 279

A well-reasoned research paper should be well-rounded. It must address the significant arguments against your position. This can take many forms. Sometimes, you just flat out destroy the other side’s arguments. In other cases, you might have to concede the opposition’s point while also explaining why you are still right. The presentation of Counter-Arguments is tricky. First, you must present their argument fairly and completely. Second, you must answer their argument. Sometimes students simply present the opposition’s position without answering it. Counter-arguments should also be presented as such. Make it clear that you are presenting a position you don’t agree with. For example, “Death penalty advocate John Bonbaum aruges X.” “Some opponents will say Y.”

Requirements your Essay Should Fulfill

History

Before you begin specifically addressing arguments for or against your position, you must first establish the history of the topic. How long has the issue been around? What significant developments have occurred? Have there been any significant laws passed in regards to the law? Have there been any significant events that have affected the perception of the issue? To convince us of your position, you must first prove that you are an expert on the topic.

Significance and Harms

Is the issue you are talking about important? Does it have wideranging implications? Does it affect many people? Does it affect a principle which is universally important? If the issue is not handled or addressed in the manner you support, what are the risks? What is at stake?

Solution

In the clearest way possible, present just exactly how the Harms can be prevented. This should generally take the form of a Thesis statement, but might be explained more later, with specific details.

Reasons

Just like arguments need evidence, Solutions need Reasons. These are your main points of support.

 

Day 24.5 – Research Notes

1)  What is a research paper?

  • Presents info. from various sources in a concrete format. Intro -> Body -> Conclusion. Undisputable.
  • Factual, non-biased essay about one subject. Present both sides. No stance.
  • Analysis over a specific topic. Breaking it down. Depth.
  • Data driven analysis of a subject. Compile information.
  • Empirical (measurable, provable) data to objectively present both sides of an issue.
  • Thesis driven, on an arguable topic, supported with viable research, convincing logic, and thorough coverage.

2) What makes a good research paper topic?

  • A debatable topic.
  • Lots of information. Needs awareness. Popculture. Pick something interesting and relevant to you.
  • Reseachable. Can’t be based purely on personal or purely philosophical.
  • Readable, interesting. People should care about it.
  • Relevance, universality, easily interpreted across the ages. Timeless. Connectable to larger themes.

3) What qualifies as good research?

  • Reliable – unbiased (reputable – amount of publishing, affiliation, traceable)
  • Sources
  • Multiple sources. Source understandability.
  • Statistics. Enhances the topic. Unique sources.
  • Variety from different types of publications.
  • No plagiarism.

4) What components are necessary in the research paper to make it convincing?

  • Several drafts. Clarity of thoughts. Logical transitions. Lots of support to the thesis.
  • Solid logic. Link to the thesis. Cited research.
  • Presents flaws in both arguments.
  • Present both sides.
  • Evidence.
  • Understandable.
  • Grammar. Punctuation. Spelling.
  • Genuinely believe what you are saying.

Day 23 – MLK Day

I haven’t posted because I want my class to be able to easily find my rough draft for their next assignment on Children of Men. (And yes students, it is but a ROUGH draft. I’ve been working dilligently to improve it because there are many aspects I don’t like. You should do the same! If you are completely happy with a rough draft, you will likely be unhappy with your grade.)

But seeing as it is Martin Luther King Day, it seems impossible not to make a passing word to the man, seeing as how important he is to my own class. If you have never read “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” please take the time to do so. While the “I Have a Dream” speech is probably the most famous text associated with King, “Letter” is his true manifesto. It is a beautiful, thoughtful, and powerful piece of rhetoric. As much as I admire the incendiary style of Malcolm X or those associated with the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King always overwhelms me with how calm and rational he is in his approach. Even when you are hoping that he is going to explode and roast his opponents, he quickly dashes the idea of “opponents” and speaks on the level of love and equality that he promotes. Yes, he takes people to task, but the way he does it is so incredibly admirable.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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