Tag Archives: FIFA 2014 World Cup

My hatred for Ronaldo stays on the pitch

hoaxI’ve never liked Cristiano Ronaldo.  I think he is arrogant, obnoxious, and with the exception of how he played for a few matches prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, very overrated. His Portugal National Soccer team plays a dirty aggressive style and has beaten some of my favorite teams.  So in that typical way a passionate sports fan will, I hate Ronaldo. However, I also know the dangers of attacking someone incorrectly. Apparently the story claiming he refused to exchange shirts with an Israeli player is as made up as the pictures you see here showing Ronaldo and a photoshopped picture above Lionel Messi with a photshopped picture.  The real story, a story that incidentally took place at least a year ago is that he didn’t exchange his jersey with a fellow Portuguese player that was already wearing an Israeli jersey.  The truth is that during his trip to Israel he happily posed on Tel-Aviv beach, commented publicly about enjoying Israel and is even pictured smiling and shaking the hand of Shimon Peres.  So until I hear otherwise, I will continue to hate Ronaldo the way I hate any athlete who I consider the enemy…in a game.  In real life it appears the guy may not be that bad after all.

As anyone who has read my writing knows, I am never bashful when it comes to going after someone I feel is an enemy of Israel and the Jewish people.  But despite my somewhat poor-sport dislike for Ronaldo, Portugal beat Holland and England too much for my liking, I won’t attack someone if I don’t see it as warranted.  I’ll just root against him on the pitch.

We have enough real enemies that we don’t need to make them up.

 

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My Summer of Gaza

img65649The summer of 2014 was set to be a great one.  I had slimmed down from the year before, had recently moved into a better home closer to the beach, the World Cup had started and I was all set to enjoy the next few months. Although life always presents its challenges, nothing had come up that was so important that it would change my priorities significantly.  Then something happened that changed everything.  3 Yeshiva boys were kidnapped.

I still remember that ray of hope we had that Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal would somehow make it back safely.  The motto “Bring Back our Boys” was everywhere as we all prayed that somehow God would see them back to their homes unharmed.  I have seen many bad actions taken against Jews and decent people everywhere, but somehow I found myself more involved now than I had been for at least 13 years since 9/11.  I related to these boys.  I remember being a Yeshiva student myself in my late teens, in Israel, and knew that even if I wasn’t like these boys, I knew guys who were.  So it hit home and I found myself caring more than usual.  It wasn’t till they were found dead, murdered brutally at what we all knew immediately was the hands of Hamas terrorists, that something truly snapped in me.  That was when I, David, had finally had enough.

When tragedy strikes one never knows exactly how they will react.  Although I related so significantly to these three boys, I did not know them personally. Had I known them personally, maybe I would have been so distraught that I would have had trouble functioning.  So when I say I had finally had enough and I snapped, I felt an anger I had rarely felt in my life and I turned to my weapon of choice, the written word.  And my position as a moderate was now a thing of the past as well, as I realized that moderation is something that needs to be saved for the reasonable and fair, not the racially bigoted and brutally violent.

When the Israeli cabinet met on how to react to the boys’ deaths, I knew one thing.  As a Jew and a Zionist living in New York, unless they did nothing, I would support the Israeli government.  I committed myself to not only stating my feelings, but in rallying as many people as possible to the cause.  Not my cause, not merely the Jewish people’s cause, but in truth what should be seen as the entire world’s cause.   Before this would happen I would call someone a piece of garbage for being anti-Semitic, and occasionally even write something about it, but now it felt more personal than before.  It became so clear to me as it is to almost anyone with an unbiased desire for a peaceful world.  So now I decided to go further than I had ever gone before.  As I state on my Twitter profile, “no longer am I happy not being part of the problem. Now I want to be part of the solution.”

When Israel first went after Hamas with airstrikes in Gaza, no one really knew how serious the situation would turn out to be.  The terror tunnels they discovered were designed to carry out mass murders of Jews, and the intelligence they gathered indicated that it was going to be as soon as this Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year which falls towards the end of September. Israel’s incursion by ground troops into Gaza was used to uncover and destroy these tunnels.  However, while this was happening the situation took an ominous term.

I almost typed unexpected as well, but as a Jew paying attention, anti-Semitism is never completely unexpected.  I’ve been accused of being slightly over-sensitive to comments, but no one has ever accused me of having a persecution complex.  At least not to my face.  So when I say I was not totally shocked by the global spike in anti-Jewish words and behavior, this is not coming from someone who makes declarations that “everyone hates the Jews”.  I know better.  What we’ve seen this summer however has been epic.  Even by the usual standards of hatred.  Gone is the requirement of logic and fact.  Merely wanting to hate the Jews became enough.  Telling half of the story so that the part that exonerated Israel was conveniently missing became the strategy of the vocal and clever anti-Zionist/anti-Semite.  And gone forever is the notion that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are not two in the same.  When  you have two signs at a protest that say “Free Gaza” and ” Hitler was right”, you have lost the argument that they are different.  When pogrom style attacks took place on French synagogues by people claiming to do things in support of Palestinians it was made abundantly clear that this was about hating the Jew at least as much as it was about opposing Israel.

The more Jews were attacked, whether in Israel or outside of Israel, the more committed I became, expressing my commitment through articles and letters to those expressing damaging sentiments towards the Jewish people, while also writing articles acknowledging our supporters.  Every time I heard “Free Gaza” I felt more and more compelled to shout to the world that the people of Gaza needed to be freed from Hamas not from Israel.  Every time the United Nations revealed its bizarrely obvious bias against Israel I wanted to write something to expose it.  Why?  Partially because it was cathartic, but even more because I wanted to make sure everyone I could reach would know the truth, and once I began to do that, there was no turning back.  With every missile fired at Israel, with every fatality including the 64 members of the IDF fighting to preserve Israel’s survivor, my commitment grew stronger.

Recognizing the need for unity with more than just the Jewish community, I created the Global Coalition for Israel on Facebook as a means of showing a cohesive support for the State of Israel. One month later the group is at 1300 and growing daily.  When the summer began I was worried about when I was going to get to the beach, lay in the sun and get to barbecues.  I’m not saying that I didn’t do those things to some extent during the summer of 2014, but they all took a back seat to something more important.  My new activism.  Watching CNN and FOX on a daily basis to get the news coming from the region, researching websites and news sources online, and meeting people with stories to tell from Israel and Europe, the summer of 2014 became something I never expected it would become, it became my Summer of Gaza.

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Lionel Messi, Shimon Peres, and a kick in the whoops

If you watch this video you will see that Lionel Messi was not ready when Shimon Peres hit this ball and ended up getting hit in a place God did not intend to get hit by soccer balls.  Ironically you could say that after this incident Messi actually has more reason to dislike Israel than most, yet he doesn’t.  Why? Because he is an intelligent and decent individual and of course this was all in good fun.  Good luck in the FIFA 20144 World Cup Final Mr. Messi.


Of Course Holland lost..They’re my team

USP SOCCER: WORLD CUP-ARGENTINA VS NETHERLANDS S SOC BRABehind every perception of destiny, irony sits waiting and ready to pounce.  But I will get back to that.  The title of this post is by no means rooted in self-pity. Pity is never the feeling I have regarding the futility of the teams I support.  As a somewhat well-adjusted individual, I generally get past the pain of my sports teams’ demise within an hour of it happening.  I must say I am pretty good when it comes to that.  After all, and this is the root of the title, I have a lot of experience with it.

We can of course start with the most recent result of which irony played a major factor as well.  But again, I will get back to the irony later.  When the Netherlands lost to Argentina yesterday in the FIFA 2014 World Cup semi-final, I knew that another World Cup would be played without Holland lifting the trophy.  I watched Holland once again secure its position as the best team to never win the World Cup.  I took solace in the fact that they lost with class to a team with class, but nevertheless, once again, their World Cup ended in defeat.

I move on to the National Football League.  I credit the great New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor with getting me into football.  Sure I watched the game and followed the playoffs and Super Bowl, admiring the skills of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice in particular, but it was LT who got me excited about the game.  And living in New York I cheered on the football Giants when they won their Super Bowls with Taylor, Simms, etc.  But it was not till I began to admire the tough character and skill of Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Donovan Mcnabb, and enjoyed games with my family that I considered myself a true fan of a team.  The Eagles would go on to 4 straight NFC Championships and one Super Bowl, but would never win the big one.  And as football fans know, they still haven’t.

In 1976 I began what would be 4 years of school in London, England.  I picked a team.  Sure, I could have picked Arsenal just as easily, a team that won titles and cups, but no, I picked Tottenham Hotspur, probably the most consistently mediocre team in any sport in any country.  And since they are exceedingly mediocre, that’s all they are getting in this piece.

Being a marginal Basketball fan I put my allegiances behind the home team New York Knicks and watched as they always came up short against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.  Except of course for the times the Bulls were without  MJ when the Knicks came up short against Hakeem Olajuwons’s Houston Rockets.  Whatever, they came up short.

Then there is the team I am most emotionally invested in on a yearly basis, the Philadelphia Flyer of the National Hockey League.  Having lived in Philadelphia during their 2 glorious Stanley Cup victories, I will always be a devoted fan.  Even if we end up never winning another cup.  Does it count at all when the Los Angeles Kings win?  Flyers fans and educated hockey fans understand that question.

Lastly I will speak of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets.  In 1985 when I moved to New York I picked a team as my local team.  I picked the very charismatic and entertaining Mets.  In 1986 I got my immediate reward, s the Mets not only won the World Series, they won it in the most dramatic and exciting of fashions.  The 1986 Mets have been the reason I have remained a fan of theirs till now, despite the fact that they are generally not very good.  And since I am a fan, when I say it that way, I am being nice.  The greatest overall significance of my support of the Mets now is that their 1986 team is the last team I am a fan of to win a championship in their sport.  Yes, that is almost 30 years.

And on it goes.  Yes I pushed the idea of Holland’s World Cup destiny, and the fate surrounding the teams they would need to beat, and of course started the online campaign of “Win it for my mother”, but in the end it was not to be.  My mother, whose maiden name was Rodrigues-Lopes, or in every day use, just Rodrigues, was the son of Marcel Rodrigues.  My grandfather’s nickname was Max.  So he was indeed known by many as Max Rodrigues.  So when Argentina needed just one more goal in penalty kicks to put them through to the finals and send Holland packing, I looked down, smiled wryly, shook my head and mumbled to myself, “of course”.  Stepping up to take the kick was Argentinian football veteran Maxi Rodriguez, who subsequently put the ball in the back of the net and guaranteed Holland would once again not the win the World Cup.  I guess I was right.  Sports destiny did play a factor.  It just did so with a tremendous sense of irony.  Good thing it only takes me an hour to get over it.


The Personal bias of Sports Destiny

hupWhen it comes to sports, destiny is a very biased concept.  Had Brasil won yesterday without the services of their superstar Neymar and their captain Silva, the host nation of the FIFA 2014 World Cup would have been buzzing about how destiny favored this soccer powerhouse.  Instead Brasil’s team laid the proverbial egg, didn’t show up for the game at all, and lost 7-1 to a very good German team.  Undoubtedly all German fans are now talking about their destiny.  I would like to put my own personal spin on the subject of destiny and show how it favors Holland.

Four years ago Holland, The Netherlands,  lost in its 3rd World Cup Final appearance to Spain.  They began this years campaign with a 5-1 whipping of the reigning champs.  In about 4 hours they will face Argentina in the semi-final.  Argentina who was the host team in 1978 and defeated Holland, then making their second final appearance.  After Germany’s victory yesterday, if destiny keeps to form, Holland will face Germany on Sunday with an opportunity to finally lift up the World Cup as champions.  40 years ago in 1974, it was Germany, then the host country, that defeated the Netherlands in their first ever appearance in the World Cup.  Like Holland or not, from the perspective of destiny it could not play out any better.

And then there is my favorite Dutch fan, my mother Sipora Groen.  At 92 years old she is enjoying the games as much as anyone else and would love to see Holland finally call themselves World Cup Champions.   So I say it again, and hopefully will be making this plea again after today and before Sunday, WIN IT FOR MY MOTHER.

HUP HOLLAND


The Importance of the Unimportant

Netherlands-beats-Costa-Rica-World-Cup-jpgAs a Jewish American I felt somewhat guilty focusing my attentions to the triviality of the World Cup.  My guilt made me pause before posting anything about my excitement and enjoyment surrounding the efforts of The Netherlands in this year’s tournament.  Yes I paused, as I did not wish to be insensitive to the harsh realities facing all of us, but in the end I rationalized or justified my decision, not all will agree on which one it is, and chose to enjoy Holland’s World Cup victory.  It made me question the morality of putting importance on those things that clearly do not hold the same importance as our most pressing personal and communal issues.

There are some events or activities no one questions as important nor do they question the joy these events bring to individuals and families.  Weddings, childbirth, recovery from illness, even special moments with friends and family, are all occurences no one ever disputes as important.  Sure there are people who have emotional issues that may prevent them from getting joy from these moments, but as a general rule people agree that all of these things are important and therefore should bring one joy, even when surrounded by unpleasant realities.

I am one of those people who believes life is made up of moments.  Many are good, many are bad.  Unfortunately the bad moments seek us out, finding us without mercy or timing.  The good moments sometimes do the same, just not with the same persistence.  I am not being negative in this statement, merely realistic.  I am also using it as a springboard to make the point I wish to make.  The moments in life that bring us pleasure, the movies we love, the meals we savor, and yes the sporting events that thrill us, are the moments we need to seek out.  These moments fuel us, strengthen us, and yes indeed, even if only momentarily,can make us happy.  Brasil is a nation struggling with discontent and yet it comes together in excitement to celebrate the FIFA 2014 World Cup.  Do I believe the World Cup matters when mothers are mourning the murders of their teenage sons?  Of course I don’t.  But I also know that the day will come when they may turn to something as unimportant as a soccer match to bring them some needed joy.  Not today, but when the time is right.  Maybe that is why we sometimes call our athletes heroes.  Not because they live by higher standards, but because they sometimes give people a very necessary respite from the more difficult moments in life.

Just take a moment to think about how much better the world could be if everyone worried a little bit more about those things so many deem as unimportant.

 


Blame the Ref!

neymar-0aI’ll be brief.  Those who watched the quarterfinal game between Brasil and Colombia in the FIFA 2014 World Cup saw one of the most disgraceful performances by a Ref you will ever see.  Thanks to his inability or lack of willingness to control the game, Brasil’s best player Neymar was ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup with a broken vertebrae.  With fouls spiraling out of control throughout the game, it was just a matter of time before someone got seriously hurt or a fight broke out.  Why FIFA continues to allow the degree of incompetence and likely corruption in soccer’s biggest football stage is beyond me, but once again officiating has tarnished a great tournament.  It may never change, but I for one refuse to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.