At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Top Ten List: Reasons for Buying a Copy (or Several Copies) of 'Litany of Secrets'

On my regular and author Facebook pages, I've engaged in a running top ten list of reasons to get a copy of my debut novel, Litany of Secrets. For those of you who are interested, here's the full list of items. And please, when you get through this, share the reasons, and the book information, with others.

(10) Downloading it to your Kindle is cheaper than a frapuccino from Starbucks, a ticket to a ball game, a gallon of milk (in most places), a gallon of gas, or a box combo from Raising Canes. Think about something you'd give up this week for a great story.

(9) Main character, Detective Cameron Ballack, is the sleuthing prince of paradoxes. A fiercely independent spirit in the body of a physically disabled person; a minister's son with an agnostic streak a mile wide; critical thinking threading side-by-side with intuition rising from a photographic memory. Think about a character you'd want in a great story, and get to know Cameron Ballack.

(8) If you believe religious communities can be profoundly beautiful and powerfully stained entities, the setting of the first Cameron Ballack mystery is for you. St. Basil's Seminary combines high church tradition with roiling evil, and the bodies keep piling up.

(7) If you love a well-constructed fictional setting within an actual area, Litany of Secrets is for you. The fictional St. Basil's Seminary sits in Defiance, Missouri, near Missouri wine country, but all other sites other than St. Basil's are spot-on. If you know and love St. Louis, you'll enjoy the references to the Katy Trail, Highways 40, 94 and 270, not to mention Fitz's Restaurant with its famous root beer. Getting the itch?

(6) The big publishing houses do not have a complete lock on quality literature and great stories. Litany of Secrets is the first crime fiction novel publishing by Dunrobin Publishing, headed by Mark Sutherland, who is everything an editor, publisher, and literary shepherd could be. Litany of Secrets is not only a great story; it is one of many great stories and books that have been published by Dunrobin. Check out great authors like Mark, as well as Glynn Young, David T. MacFarlane and others at 

(5) Clean shock value: The story and language are decent enough to appeal to many. Yet the shock value is high-voltage without being gratuitous. Murder at an Orthodox seminary? Yes! A rural, bucolic environment awash in mistrust and murder? Yes! Yes! Yes! 

(4) You never know when you'll bump into someone who shows interest in getting a copy themselves. The Orthodox church storyline is a different niche for murder mysteries, but it came in handy days ago when I was doing sermon prep for this upcoming Sunday at the local public library. A guy named Garrett struck up a conversation about what I was doing, and in the course of our talk, I found out he was Orthodox [I think it freaked him out that a Presbyterian like me knew what an iconostasis was!], and eventually the subject came around to Litany of Secrets. Using your everyday contacts can get the word out about the story…be willing to follow the angles!

(3) Admit it: We all judge a book by its cover--literally and metaphorically. A cover can either obscure a book's message or enrapture the reader by amplifying the story to another level. Juxtaposed themes of darkness and hope, mystery and clarity, disability and determination are all brought out beautifully by Ciarra Peters, my former student and the cover artist for Litany of Secrets. Ciarra is a brilliant scholar who has won prizes for research in white brain matter, yet her artistic soul pours forth with beautiful redesigns like the Litany of Secrets cover image. She literally has to image a scene in her mind and she cane raw it without batting an eye. Want to draw someone you know into the world of Detective Cameron Ballack? Show them the front cover of Litany of Secrets, and you'll seal the deal.

(2) It's worth a look when one of the best English teachers in the universe gives it a five-star review. Deborah Harbaugh Clarke--my ninth and eleventh grade English teacher at Westminster High School in Westminster, Maryland--always had high standards but never stopped pushing and encouraging me toward those lofty expectations. She, more than anyone else, is responsible for turning me into a writer, and so she knows what she's talking about when it comes to heating up the composition soul.

(1) It's real, because Detective Cameron Ballack is a real person. Not real as in non-fiction, but drenched in realism. Ballack is afflicted with X-linked myotubular myopathy, the same disorder that our son Joshua has and the thing which took our sweet little Jordan from us. Ballack consistently shows himself to be handi-capable rather than handicapped, and that courage and determination can come from a wheelchair with the force of a howitzer. Ballack experiences love, loss, hope, despair, fear, and bravery and always manages to move forward through every wall, even though he can't walk through them on his own two feet. Resourceful and realistic, Cameron Ballack is a hero we've been waiting for.

And there's your top ten reasons. Now share them--and the story of Litany of Secrets--with others.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

And the Preview Run is Over!

Let me say first of all, I've loved doing these Match of the Day mini-previews. It's been a blast going down memory lane in the World Cup and thinking through what might happen in this one. However, after tomorrow's games, I'll be hanging up my prognosticator's hat and enjoying the rest of the World Cup without weighing in on particular games here at Sacred Chaos.

There are several reason for this:

(1) From a strategy perspective, we've already got five teams already in the knockout round, and five teams (including defending champ Spain) eliminated after only two group games. That means that from Monday through Thursday, we have four games each day. If a match could make the difference in a team going on or being out, it's significant. If not, it's not. It's that simple. After a rest day on Friday, we begin the knockout phase on Saturday, June 28th. I might pick up some previews when we get to the quarterfinals, but a rest is in order.

(2) I have a fairly busy family week this week. Joshua has vent clinic at St. Louis Children's Hospital on Tuesday, Lindsay has her orthodontic appointment Thursday afternoon, and I have to take Lindsay to her archery camps on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. 

(3) To top it off, I need to take my laptop in to school so that the IT department can do some mandatory updates on it, thus making it fit and fiddle for the upcoming school year. So I'll part with it on Monday and get it back later in the week. It'll be good to have a break.

So thanks for tagging along for the World Cup ride so far. Probably see you all in cyberspace in about a week!

Match of the Day: Great Nation vs. Greatest Player

I have to preach across the river in Illinois on Sunday, so I'm sending out my Match of the Day preview a step early.

Belgium vs. Russia is an intriguing clash, but I should be shot if I select any other game than the USA vs. Portugal.

On paper, the US seems to have all the momentum. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is pushing all the right buttons, Tim Howard is playing outstanding in goal, and the timely scoring has taken away a level of anxiety over getting gassed down the stretch against what's turned out to be a strong Ghana team (witness their 2-2 tie against Germany today). But the US is a little banged up. It will be interesting to see how Clint Dempsey plays through his broken nose and if Jozy Altidore can play through the searing pain of his hamstring, which he yanked like you're starting a mower.

Portugal likewise is banged up. Two starters out with injuries, and defender Pepe is barred from the pitch due to a red card for head butting Thomas Muller in the Portuguese collapse against the Germans. Not to mention that the Wonder of the Universe and Gift of the Gods, Cristiano Ronaldo, is facing up to a knee injury that he won't let keep him down. Give him credit, though, for wanting to play through (when I received word of his injury, I thought at first his hairdo suffered a dislocated hair follicle). 

The US finished strong against Ghana, but can they turn up their jets a second straight time? We saw today Germany's struggles in trying to stay motivated for game number two in group. And Portugal never really showed up against the Germans, but facing elimination, they might flash a good bit of anger and come out roaring. 

Bottom line: This will not be a walkover. At the very least, I'm saying no more than a one-goal differential either way.

Torching the Envelope

Toward the end of the school year, I mentioned an innovative group activity we used in my Ethics classes, dividing into clusters of 3-4 students and--in rotating sequences--drawing select words out of cups and writing five different 100-word stories called drabbles about some of the Ten Commandments.

While I mentioned the fun of trying something new, it's only fair to  state that one group managed to pull off a story that was named Best Overall. It's exactly one hundred words, arranged in a hilarious story about theft (the eighth commandment) and done so in thirty-three sentences of three words each, followed by a monosyllabic ending word.

I'm not making this up.

So it's only fair to share the creativity of Johnny Hardin, Elisabeth Harding, and Nate Applebaum. It's entitled simply "8".

Patrick walked in. He was shifty. He saw novel. Novel looked good. Novel was prayer. Patrick likes novel. Patrick steals novel. Patrick walks out. Godfrey is storeclerk. Godfrey sees Patrick. "NO LIKE THIEVES!" "Hey," Godfrey screams. Godfrey calls police. Patrick runs out. Police tackle Patrick. Patrick breaks leg. Patrick is sad. Patrick visits court. Judge is angry. Jury is unforgiving. Patrick sues police. Leg is broken. Patrick is guilty. Sentenced to die. Patrick attempted escaping. Police tackle Patrick. Break other leg. Patrick is shot. Godfrey feels bad.  Godfrey quits job. Names kid Patrick. Patrick breaks leg. Lives happily forever. Fin.

Match of the Day: Double-G Rematch

What is it about Ghana that they seem to run into rematches?

The Black Stars faced the Americans for the third straight World Cup in their 2-1 loss to the USMNT last week, and now there is no rest for the weary. In a group rematch from 2010, today's game at 2 pm CT features Ghana taking on world number-two (and Davis family number-one favorite) Germany.

In 2010, it was Germany facing a must-win situation. The Mannschaft had suffered a stunning 1-0 loss against Serbia the game before (thanks to a red card on scoring machine Miroslav Klose and a blown PK by Lukas Podolski). With a win over Ghana, the Germans would advance to a knockout round of 16 game against England, and they did by the narrowest of margins. A 1-0 squeaker, thanks to a bullet from beyond the arc by Mesut "Bugsy" Ozil, got the Germans over the line.

Now it's Ghana on the edge and you can bet that German coach Joachim Loew will set out a lineup he knows can crunch down on the flow of the Black Stars' offense. The one wildcard will be who Loew puts in at striker. Ghana coach James Appiah has to be concerned how he will break Germany's defense, especially given how Portugal was frustrated in the Mannschaft's 4-0 demolition last week.

There is very little to say here other than Ghana is in a must-win situation and is facing a short history with Germany that is still lopsided in Prussian favor (two games, two wins, 7-1 scoring differential). But Germany, who dearly wants a World Cup title, views every game as must win, and the talent and Vaterland determination should be enough to give Germany a decisive win.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Match of the Day: Battle in the E Block

Italy and Costa Rica is the lid lifter game today, a battle for control of Group D, but the middle clash--in Salvador--between France and Switzerland for control of Group E is quite intriguing.

France is going for increasing redemption after their 2010 disaster, which saw them melt down with on- and off-field issues in South Africa. (In fairness, it does seem like the French alternate fantastic and dreadful runs in the World Cup…1998, champions…2002, no goals scored…2006, finalists…2010, screwups.) Their 3-0 knockdown of Honduras in their opener was impressive and marked two-goal (and nearly three) scorer Karim Benzema as one to watch.

Switzerland is going into this with motivation of its own. They are coming off a thrilling stoppage time 2-1 win over Ecuador in which Haris Steferovic scored the winning tally with seconds on the clock. Often overlooked when compared with surrounding world powers Germany, France, and Italy, the Swiss want this one badly. They actually finished ahead of France in their group in 2006 in Germany, but fell flat against Ukraine in a knockout phase shootout. They know a tie does them little good for passing France as their neighbors have the edge on goal differential.

The better conditioned, less injured team should have the edge down the stretch in this one. The problem is I have no clue who that should be. But both teams should put a lot of great soccer on display nonetheless.

Trends & Stuff: E-Reading vs. Print Reading

This comes from a UK Telegraph article from last year, but it makes an interesting case for a rebound in print books alongside what you can download on the Kindle or NOOK. I should say that--as a reader and an author--I'm a fan of both approaches. But in the Telegraph article, Louise Gray notes that the preferences of authors for

     a well stuffed book shelf to one slim tablet and admire well illustrated book over a touch-screen. “Ugly adverts” appearing on screens is also a problem for authors.
Alain de Botton, the philosopher, said he soon dumped e-books when he realised the information didn’t really sink in without physical contact with a real book.
"I'm a recent apostate from e-books. I found that whatever I read on my Kindle I couldn't really remember in the long term. It was as if I had never read it," he told the Sunday Times.
Jilly Cooper missed the ability to makes notes on e-book readers in the same way as with traditional books.
"I like to scribble all over [books] and write things and say 'Well done' and 'God how awful' and 'Let's remember that bit'. I always underline good bits and turn over the pages of bits that absolutely knock me out," she said.

You can read the rest of the article here.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Match of the Day: Hail the Global South!

As I am getting up early to go running tomorrow, followed by an hour or so of mowing the lawn, I'm doing a quick MOTD preview for Thursday tonight.

Many would figure that--on the heels of the "desperation" motif of the Spain-Chile game--I'd continue that.

By the way, how about Chile? First win ever vs. Spain. And the Iberians become the first defending champion to be eliminated after only two games into the next World Cup.

But many would figure I'd select Uruguay and England for Thursday's match of the day. Both are coming off gut-wrenching losses to Costa Rica and Italy, respectively, although I believe England threw more determination and resolve at Italy than Uruguay did in their collapse.

No, it's Colombia vs. Ivory Coast. Redemption vs. guts.

Colombia--ranked as high as third in the world last summer--has qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1998, and they haven't moved past the group stage since 1990 in Italy. Some fans who recall the 1994 World Cup here in America will have memories of Andres Escobar's own goal that gave the US team a dramatic 2-1 win over Colombia, a mistake which led to Escobar's shooting death in Medellin less than a month later (his error supposedly led to gambling losses by drug lords). Now Colombia's team is primed to move beyond this tragedy after long last, coming off a 3-0 whitewashing of Greece.

Ivory Coast poured its guts into a 2-1 comeback win over Japan. Impressive talent such as Manchester City's Yaya Toure and Swansea City's Wilifred Bony buttress the top ranked team from the African continent, but the soul of this team continues to be Didier Drogba, the former Chelsea star who willed the Blues to victory in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final. Don't make the mistake of overlooking Les Elephants; opponents who do, do so to their peril.

Colombia and Ivory Coast, both with a win in hand, play Thursday with an eye toward the inside track for advancement to the knockout round. Redemption or guts? The meter could well move either way. Ninety minutes can barely contain these two squads.

Match of the Day: The More Desperate Team Wins

In John Feinstein's A Civil War, the author tracks the entire (American) football season at the United States Military Academy [a.k.a., "Army"] and the US Naval Academy [a.k.a., "Navy"]. The narrative builds toward the rivalry game between the teams at the end of the year. It is in the lead-up to the game that Army head coach Bob Sutton gives a charge for his players to remember in the trenches of the Army-Navy contest.

"The more desperate team wins."

Army took it to heart, winning one of the greatest games in the history of the rivalry, 14-13, on a last minute touchdown. The Cadets were truly the more desperate team (and converting a fourth-and-23 situation late in the game helped, too!).

What does this have to do with today's World Cup slew of games?

Simply that in the 5 pm (Central time) matchup between Spain and Chile, we can restate the Sutton Doctrine: The more desperate team wins. The question is which team is more desperate?

On paper, it looks to be Spain by a mile. The kings of soccer have had their way in Euro Cup 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro Cup 2012. But against the Netherlands, the Spaniards came unglued under a full-on assault led by Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie. Even all-world goalie Iker Casillas couldn't handle a kick touch that led to one goal. The result was a 5-1 whipping and a minus-4 goal differential that will be difficult to make up. That alone makes Spain a desperate team, like a wounded mother lion enraged that her cubs are in danger. In other words, look out. Spain doesn't deal well with losing, and they should bring their A-game today and make Chile as busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

But that's on paper. In truth, Chile is coming off a fine win over Australia, having overwhelmed the Aussies in the first fifteen minutes with goals by Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia. They blunted the determined comeback by Australia, allowing only a goal by Thomas Cahill before Jean Beausejour added the stoppage time insurance tally for a 3-1 win. Here's the thing: Why shouldn't Chile be more desperate, knowing they have their two toughest tests ahead of them? After Spain, they still have to play the Dutch and there is no guarantee what the all-important goal differential will be then. Chile is 14th in the world but only the fifth-best South American team, and the Chileans want to make some noise.

So what's the outcome? Hard to tell. Both teams match up well. Spain has to win, and if Chile manages at least a tie, then it sets Spain behind the proverbial eight-ball. Spain should take it by a 2-1 or 1-0 count, but given the way this World Cup has unfolded so far, I'm looking for surprises of any kind.

Especially when desperation kicks in.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Match of the Day: A Latin Twist with Some Turkish Coffee

This will be a quick one, and with no offense meant to the Belgium-Algeria match or the Russia-South Korea clash. But the match of the day today originates from Fortaleza and involves Brazil and Mexico.

Several reasons why this match is intriguing:

1. Brazil needs to show they can play an end-to-end great game against a well-oiled opponent. They showed their colors (and a little bit of dive action in the box) and mettle in a come-from-behind win in the opener over Croatia. But their fans are demanding more.

2. Mexico wants to throw a monkey wrench into Brazil's life today. Oribe Peralta has gone on record saying "We will make Brazil's life difficult." Peralta has the swagger and talent to do so from his striker position, and Brazil fans will recall his two goals in the Olympic gold medal match in 2012, enabling Mexico to swipe the top spot from the Brazilian team.

3. Whoever wins clinches the road through to the knockout stage, for all intents and purposes.

4. The officiating intangibles: Cuneyt Cakir is the referee today, and the Turkish official has been known for a quick trigger disciplinary approach in the past that has garnered a fair bit of controversy. He is ultra-precise on distances on free kicks (more so than the norm), and he does not hesitate to send players off with red cards, be it in the first or last minutes of the game. He angered Sir Alex Ferguson when he sent off Nani during the 2013 UEFA Champions league game between Manchester United and Real Madrid. During the 2012 Euro Cup semifinal between Spain and Portugal, Cakir doled out nine yellow cards in a bitter game that went to a penalty shootout. Mario Balotelli likely still recalls when Cakir sent him off during the 2011 Europa League match between Manchester City and Dynamo Kyiv, a game in which Cakir gave out eight other yellow cards.

All of which adds up to an intriguing matchup, but for me, the officiating intangible might be the one to watch.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Match of the Day: Powers From Across the Pond

So the Iran-Nigeria matchup will be…

Had you there for a minute, didn't I?

Although I am certain Iran and Nigeria will give it their all, that will not be today's Match of the Day. And despite the energy brought to the US team by head coach--and former German star--Jurgen Klinsmann and the intrigue over playing Ghana in a third consecutive World Cup, the US-Ghana clash is not Match of the Day.

Two words: Mannschaft. Seleccao.

Germany and Portugal tangle in Salvador, the same locale as the Netherlands' curb-stomping of Spain. The second-ranked team in the world goes up against a tough opponent and the top player in the world.

There are challenges for each team, to be sure. Germany carries more pressure as a nation than any other country (with the possible exception of home standing Brazil) to win the Cup. The footballers from the Fatherland also have been severed banged up as of late, with midfielders Lars Bender and Marco Reus ruled off the team due to injury. However, there is nary a Deutschlander begging off high expectations because of the injury bug. Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and best-goalie-in-the-world Manuel Neuer also got nicked up during the domestic season, but all are back in form for the World Cup. And midfielder Sami Khedira came back in May from a severe knee injury, hoping to have enough moxie and mobility to make impact as he did in 2010 replacing Michael Ballack.

Portugal, however, begins and ends with striker and captain Cristiano Ronaldo and his hairdo that is more carved than styled. Germany's challenge will be containing Ronaldo without neglecting other deadly forces like midfielder Nani or striker Helder Postiga. Portugal, on the other hand, still carries raw hurt from their 1-0 exit from 2010 thanks to Spain, brought on largely by playing more cautiously than necessary. If manager Paulo Bento buries his biblically proverbial single talent in a field rather than using it (much like Carlos Quieroz was accused of in 2010), then expect Germany to exploit and attack with a vengeance, as players like Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller, and the ageless Miroslav Klose won't stay silent for long.

And then there is the historical edge for Germany. For whatever reason, the scales tilt toward the black, red, and gold, as Germany holds a 9 win, 3 loss, 5 draw edge over the Portuguese. For various reasons--and keeping my fandom for the Germans as far out of this as possible--I'm saying a tie should be the best Portugal should hope for at this stage. More realistically, I see a one-goal German win. But one thing that is for sure is a whole lot of talent and determination is on display in Salvador today in a heady Group H clash.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Match of the Day: Welcome to the Party!

I'm writing most of this blog post Saturday night for tomorrow, but I instinctively know which of Sunday's games I'd select for Match of the Day. Switzerland-Ecuador presents some interesting angles, and I'd like to see if France's game is on for their clash with Honduras. Yet the other game Sunday is the winner for Match of the Day by a longshot.

Simply because it involves a newcomer.

Welcome to the party, Bosnia & Herzegovnia!

Hereafter known simply as Bosnia, the 21st-ranked team in the world is headed into their group play against Argentina, Nigeria, and Iran with a lot of confidence. That is not to say Bosnia is favored. They have an uphill climb against the Argentines on Sunday, having played them twice before and lost by scores of 5-0 and 2-0 (the latter game was played here in St. Louis at Busch Stadium).

Not to mention Bosnia will have to find a way to slow down Lionel Messi, the Argentine scoring machine. Edin Dzeko will attempt to give the Bosnians a scoring boost as he brings his considerable playing talent Manchester City fans are used to seeing from him, although Ezequiel Garay will be lying in wait to snipe at Dzeko's heels. Yet Sejad Salihovic is a more than capable midfielder and field general for Bosnia, and he possesses one of the deadliest penalty-kick shots in the world.

Talent is on Argentina's side, and La Albiceleste should be the better team on the field. But don't forget what the Bosnians have survived emotionally and physically over the past quarter-century, birthed out of a bloody ethnic conflict thrust upon them by Serbia. These guys can play with emotion, and their fans cheer them with passion, especially the Bosnians here in St. Louis, the largest population outside of Bosnia. And don't forget, with the Cup being played in Brazil, Argentina can count on Brazilian fans rooting for Bosnia and against them. 

Many intangibles have to line up for Bosnia to squeak out with a win or tie, and I don't think those dominoes are quite there. But you never know. We've had other surprises so far when I've tried to pick the Match of the Day.

Match of the Day: Will the Lions Roar?

Well, who saw that happening yesterday? 

Can you imagine putting $1000 down with the odds of Spain not only losing, but ending with a minus-4 goal differential? You'd be rolling in it. As in you-could-retire-now rolling in it.

Now we turn from the sudden ascendancy of the Dutch (or the plummeting collapse of Spain), to today's Match of the Day. With four to choose from, there's much on the soccer smorgasbord.

There's Uruguay and Luis Suarez taking on Costa Rica, or you could take in the Colombia-Greece matchup to see if Hellas can give the crowds in Athens some relief from the economic hard times afflicting the cradle of democracy. Then again, the Ivory Coast-Japan clash affords people a chance to watch 2012 UEFA Champions League hero Didier Drogba in what could be his final World Cup (not to mention a grudge match for a Japan-inflicted fractured ulna from 2010). All good matches.

But none will be today's Match of the Day. That is reserved for the Three Lions vs. Gli Azzurri. England vs. Italy. At 5 pm ET today.

You can't get much closer on the stat sheet than this international rivalry. Italy has won nine, England eight, with seven draws coming into this, the 25th matchup all time. You can bet that England wants to take some of the sting out of their penalty shootout loss to the Azzurri in the 2012 UEFA Euro Cup quarterfinal in Kiev.

In truth, England's chances ride on how well midfielders Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard get chances through to strikers Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, and Danny Welback (I have to admit it's nice to watch the interplay of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United stars working together for once). Rooney's role is key. He usually doesn't have a dry goal account, but he hasn't exactly set the world on fire in his two World Cups in Germany and South Africa.

Italy's forte is cumulative team effort, as Marco Balotelli is talented but can't and won't carry the team on his back over seven games to a title. Gianlugi Buffon is not only an outstanding goalie but strikes the proper blend of calming and motivation one needs in a captain. The tipping point might well be how 21-year old youngsters like midfielder Marco Verratti and defender Mattia DeSciglio fit in and make contributions.

And then there are the intangibles, the greatest of which might be the weather. This game is being played in Manaus, where the scorching temperatures and brutal humidity will make the players feel it's hotter there than two obese rats making out in a wool sock. Combating the dehydration factor and bludgeoning the loss of mineral salts might be what leads to victory.

Final guess? Too close to call. We might have our first tie of the World Cup this year. I'll call it, 1-1.

More tomorrow, and thanks for checking in!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Match of the Day: Will the Orange Overcome?

The 3 PM ET game today is my runaway pick--and probably for a lot of others as well--for Match of the Day. It's not too often you get a first-round matchup between the defending Cup finalists, but it's what we get today.

My heart is with the Dutch. It'd be nice to throw some actual chaos into this tournament early on, as Croatia teased some craziness yesterday by taking an early lead on host Brazil, yet couldn't hang on…dang it.

Some thoughts on today's game at Salvador:

Dutch striker Arjen Robben has maintained their 1-0 loss in extra time to Spain in the 2010 final is affixed on the shelves of history, and today is not about revenge.

My take: Robben is doing the right thing by saying that, demonstrating a forward-facing mentality. It's just that he lies: All of the Orange Army wants revenge.

There is all the promise of a hard-tackling game much like the 2010 final which saw thirteen yellow cards and one red. Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal might hold the swing factor here based on pre-game decisions. He's considering playing five defenders as a way to throw a monkey wrench into Spain's passing precision. It's a great idea--worlds away from the attacking Dutch teams of the past--but despite the coach's √©lan, players still need to make plays.

Spain is the money team, but as we saw from Brazil's mostly somnambulant play for much of yesterday, it's not guaranteed they'll come out with all guns blazing. If Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, and Sergio Busquets can utilize their "death by a thousand paper cuts" passing game to set up some deadly strikes, this game could be less than a classic.

My call is a close game, possibly a one-goal win for the Spaniards, but the Dutch will let them know they've been in a game. And all Robben needs is a sliver of daylight to make a difference. Regardless, we should see both Spain and the Netherlands push through to the round of 16.

Enjoy the game!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The World Arrives in Brazil

If you have some deep issues to discuss over the next month, I'm probably not the person for you.

Such is life in the Davis household when the World Cup is on.

We radically reorient our priorities.

Nothing matters but soccer or--as the rest of the world calls it--football.

And so if that's going on, why not reorient my blog for a bit? Not for the entire tournament, but at least through the group stage.

Today won't feature any analysis with opening day, as there is only one game (Brazil vs. Croatia, about to kick off now on ESPN), but from tomorrow through every day of the group stage, I'll be presenting my preview choice for the "match of the day". As there will be at least two or three games each day, we'll have a bit to choose from.

So come along for the ride! The world has come to Brazil. Many teams, but there can be only one winner!

Hopefully, it will be Germany. Deutschland uber alles!

Until tomorrow.