Monthly Archives: June 2014

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade of 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts)

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Good Afternoon:

The whole event stood as a contrast to 2013. 2013’s parade came mere days after the Supreme Court handed down two historic decisions favoring gay rights. These decisions provoked one giant weekend-long burst of joy throughout San Francisco as gay rights advocates poured into the city to celebrate these enormous victories. Incidentally, I wrote “gay rights advocates,” not “gays” for a reason. Gay rights advocates are not by definition gay; indeed, since San Francisco is mostly heterosexual, it would not surprise me if most gay rights advocates in this city were straight.

This year’s parade? Rather quieter. Years ago, I learned to beware the fallacy of assuming that personal experience = universal experience, but if my experience today holds true, the parade drew fewer people and resembled the well-behaved celebrations of old than last year’s wildly raucous and well-behaved celebration of new. Furthermore, last year’s parade universally celebrated gay marriage; this year’s went all over the map.

I wanted to find a few scenes epitomizing this’s weeks Photo Challenge, but had greater success finding sets of scenes with contrasting elements rather than individual pictures with two or more contrasting elements.

For example, some folks celebrated being gay and in love:

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Selfie on Market Street, LGBT Pride Parade 2014

In contrast, some folks protested gay-related issues:

Chelsea Manning Supporters

Chelsea Manning Supporters

In contrast, some folks protested non-gay-related issues:

Live Cage-Free or Die

Live Cage-Free or Die

I had to work hard to find a single picture with contrasting elements. This was my “best” success.

Pink Pistols, San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade

Pink Pistols, San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade

Gay libertarian gun advocates with rainbow Gadsden Flags. Those contrasts might make the heads of some non-San Franciscans explode, but it makes more sense here. Gay bashing remains a problem, and the Pink Pistols advocate gun ownership so that gays can defend themselves against physical violence coming from homophobics. Or as the sign says, “Marry Rights/Carry Rights/Equal Rights.”

The organized anti-gay protestors with their big bright signs of years past have disappeared (correction: this is the second straight year that I personally have not seen them), but I did see this gentleman who, like our Silent Preacher (didn’t see him anywhere this year), prefers to keep quiet and let God’s words do the talking. When I walked past, a number of other photographers were taking his picture, and he did not mind at all. Interestingly, it is not at all obvious that he is anti-gay. In another contrast, he was the quietest person at the parade.

So Then Every...

So Then Every…

However, a few other Christians made a contrasting amount of noise.

Dignity, A Catholic Organization

Dignity, A Catholic Organization

Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church

Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church

ReconcilingWorks! (Lutheran).

ReconcilingWorks! (Lutheran).

We Will Marry You!

We Will Marry You!

The Episcopal folks had quite the advertising slogan, didn’t they?

The commercialization of the parade continues unabated. I will let others debate whether the virtues of corporate acceptance outweighs the vices of corporate exploitation, but I will point out that the most popular fashion accessory I saw consisted of these:

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Yes–those are Burger King crowns.

Again, I caution both my readers and myself against taking my own observations for universal experience, but this year’s parade seems to represent a return to the norm; a fun annual get-together for all kinds of people (heteros definitely outnumbered gays this year) and all kinds of families.

Redwood Alley, 20 June 2014, 2:58 p.m. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrasts)

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Good Morning:

This week’s Photo Challenge is inspired; so stimulating to the imagination, so easy to find examples, and yet coming up with something both different and well-photographed will prove so uh, challenging.

Saw this cigarette break from the third floor at work.

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Redwood Alley, 20 June 2014, 2:58 p.m.

What intrigued me about the scene was that this full-color shot came out almost entirely B&W, with the exception of the flesh tones. For this week’s Challenge, we also have the contrasts of sunshine vs. shadow and light vs. dark. Looking forward to the weekend’s output; I anticipate seeing some excellent contributions.

Vonn Scott Bair

Reason #822,201 to Love San Francisco: The Tiny Universes of San Francisco

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Good Evening:

And one more thing about San Francisco. We have tiny universes here. Little nooks, crannies, alleys, backyards, and miniature parks that popup in the middle of your perambulations, taking you by surprise.

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You can find these in the same stretch of Noe Street as Reason #822,200, a small collection of even smaller parks and even smallest sights. In this part of Noe Street, the residents work together to maintain the mini-parks and assorted greenery, which means they also end up relaxing on the park benches they maintain.

And that’s when residents become neighbors.

Vonn Scott Bair

Reason #822,200 to Love San Francisco: The World’s Smallest Lending Library?

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Good Evening:

Nah, it probably isn’t, but it’s the smallest I’ve ever seen.

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The first four blocks of Noe Street rank among the most picturesque and unknown beauties that even most San Franciscans haven’t visited. As this library can attest, Noe Street can have a real everyone-knows-everyone  neighborhood feel. Check out the only rules of this library.

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It’s official; San Francisco is magic.

Vonn Scott Bair

Reason #822,199 to Love San Francisco: The Fashion

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Good Evening:

I’m guessing here, but this might be legal in San Francisco.

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He wore a mask, a necktie, socks, sneakers and a handbag. And not much else. In fact, the only other item he wore was a sock that covered his um, er, uh–his rhymes-with-sock.

He didn’t seem to mind that people noticed him or pretended that they didn’t.

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Welcome to San Francisco. Where we call this business casual.

Vonn Scott Bair

Reason #822,198 to Love San Francisco: The Poetry

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Good Evening:

I still have not discovered the person who first said or wrote, “The surreal is that which lies at your feet,” but I found another example of sidewalk art today. This particular writer has a unique style of handwriting, and you cannot mistake him or her for anyone else.

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Shawnty has a distinct style of writing: very short poems, almost but not haiku, and mysterious, evocative imagery that lends itself to multiple interpretations.

This and the next three posts all came to me in the course of two hours during my errand run. I will publish them in the order in which I encountered them. This just happens some days; San Francisco just wants to show off just how much San Francisco is San Francisco.

Vonn Scott Bair

High School Has Changed. For Worse and for Better.

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Good Evening:
I visited the East Coast this week to attend the high school graduation of my niece. I graduated high school in the year MTLA, a Roman numeral that equals Much Too Long Ago, and things have changed a lot since then. Oh, have they ever changed a lot since then:
1. My graduation ceremony did not have at least eight cops patrolling the event. Actually, we had zero.
2. My graduation ceremony did not include a weapons check.
3. My graduating class did not include a blind student.
4. My graduating class did not include two wheelchair students.
The more I think about this, the more baffled I feel. I feel shamefully ignorant; I can’t tell you what happened to disabled/differently abled children in that America. Such students simply didn’t exist in my world, unless the wrestling team competed against schools for the deaf or blind. Who knows where the wheelchair-bound went? I don’t.
5. The Salutarian (sp?) referred to his gay and lesbian friends in the student body. In Roman numeral MTLA, homosexuals did not exist in high school; seriously, you did not know of their existence until at least college, possibly later. I should correct myself. All I knew about gay people is I didn’t know that my classmates secretly thought I was gay until I, uh, shall we say, accidentally proved them wrong.
6. My graduating class was 95% white, 4% Asian, 1% black. My niece’s class was Hispanic, African-American, white and Asian. In that order. The demographics are changing and those who don’t adapt will fall behind.
No question about it; the need for cops and weapon checks disturb me. And yet the acceptance of a greater variety of differences among students seems to indicate genuine hope for our future.
It seems that every day I learn that I don’t know something counts as a good day. Now if I could just learn it, preferably before my age equals MTLA…
Vonn Scott Bair

World Cup Memories: 2010

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Good Evening:

My buddy Tom runs two great San Francisco bars, relaxed homey friendly places named Finnegan’s Wake and Bloom’s. As long as he’s running the show they are not, never have been, and never will be trendy–Finnegan’s Wake and Bloom’s are where neighbors hang out with neighbors. As long as they never turn trendy, they will probably run forever.

Though skeptical, Tom opened both bars early during the 2010 World Cup so fans could watch the games. Good move–he did well enough to justify the extra hours and work. I chose Finnegan’s Wake, the nearer bar, to watch the first American game of the Cup, a formidable challenge named England, one of the pre-tournament favorites to reach at least the semifinals. The English media felt highly confident in their players. One of their tabloids printed this headline when the World Cup draw put England in a seemingly soft group:

England

Algeria

Slovenia

Yanks!

And that is your infamous “EASY!” headline.

Running into a few friends (because that’s what you run into at bars like these) who didn’t know much about soccer, they asked me for my opinion on the outcome and where they should focus their attention. I said that the United States faced serious trouble and had to be underdogs–mentioning something about the American back four being very weak and vulnerable to sudden diagonal movements by an opposing midfielder splitting defenders because the defenders won’t know who should cover him. In particular I cited a pair of midfielders named Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard as very serious threats.

I felt a very light tap on my shoulder.

“Pardon me, sir, but I must correct you.”

I turned to face a five foot eight inch tall gentleman with a neat well-trimmed beard and impeccable undyed linen jacket, complete with a classic upper class English accent. He looked amused.

“Please don’t misunderstand me, I fully endorse your high regard for England, but I cannot agree with your assessment of Messrs. Lampard and Gerrard. They have both exhibited poor form in the run-up to the Cup and I doubt they can contribute more than defensive work and perhaps some good passes forward.”

“I don’t know. If I coached the English team I would install special tactics to use against the Americans.”

“We shall see about that.” He smiled and returned to his friends, shaking his head slightly.

The game began. Only four minutes later, Gerrard made a diagonal run through the American back four. The nearest defenders couldn’t figure out which one should cover him. He received an excellent pass and scored an “EASY!” goal versus a helpless Tim Howard. After groaning with my friends, I glanced at the English gentleman, expecting him to look delighted if perhaps a tad surprised.

He did not look delighted.

He did not look happy at all.

For lack of a better term, I would say he looked–terrified.

An American–an American!–had foreseen the course of the game. And he had not. That terrified him more than England’s temporary lead pleased him. Now I am most emphatically NOT a soccer expert. How can I be? I use the word “soccer,” and I never played on any organized level. My opinions were more lucky than good. Just this once I had been right about a match. (N.B.: of my predictions for the 2014 Cup, so far the only correct one is the prediction that all of my predictions would be wrong)

But I think it was the first time an American seemed to display greater knowledge of the game than his. Really, I felt bad for scaring the poor guy. I just got lucky.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Of course, “EASY!” turned out to be very hard, and England didn’t even win the group, finishing second to the USA on goals scored. They’ve had a rough go of it lately, which doesn’t seem right to me. Given their history, it seems only right and fair that they should always contend for at least the quarters.

Between the Golden Gate Bridge and You (Weekly Photo Challenge: Between)

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Good Evening:

So how the heck can anyone take a different picture of San Francisco’s iconically iconic Golden Gate Bridge?

Local photographers pretty much ignore the Bridge, leaving it to visitors and postcard companies, but your faithful correspondent can’t resist the lure of the impossible challenge. Some recent attempts just happen to meet this week’s Photo Challenge, “Between.” What I accidentally discovered is that you can do something interesting with the Bridge if you use it as the backdrop, not the subject, of the photograph. For example, when traveling to the Fringe of Marin, I got a bit lucky with this shot of highway construction, producing a decent triangle-within-triangle effect.

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A few Sundays ago, I went to Chrissy Field early to take fog pictures and found myself in the middle of a triathalon, a bicycle race, and an art museum exhibition–simultaneously. The art exhibit is an installation sponsored by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Since I’m not the greatest journalist, I’ve forgotten the sculptor’s name and whether this is a temporary or permanent display. But the giant works look pretty good contrasted against the Golden Gate.

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The ongoing restoration of Chrissy continues to produce beautiful results when complete. Not far from the sculptures I found this jogger passing through the restored wetlands.

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I hope you have a good weekend of photography.

Vonn Scott Bair

World Cup Extras at the San Francisco Civic Center, 17 June 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra)

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Good Evening:

San Franciscans get the World Cup. At least, we get the World Cup in our own distinct fashion. We understand that the World Cup is the world’s biggest sporting event month-long party. Sports? Dost thou kiddeth me? The San Franciscan World Cup consists of 30 days of parties and sampling food and beverages from around the planet. And now that the big screen has gone up at the Civic Center (a nice extra), you know where to find the party for the next few weeks.

Good thing, too. San Franciscans have embraced El Mundiale, especially those San Franciscans who have discovered to their great surprise that they have ancestors from all 32 countries and need to support every one of them:

“Boss! I can’t come to work today! It’s Ivory Coast-Japan! Gotta be there for my people!”

“Which ones are ‘your people?'”

“Both of them!”

“You said the same thing about Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

“They were my people too!”

“And Croatia-Brazil.”

“My people too! I came from all of them!”

“I did not know this, Mr. O’Reilly.”

Viewing the World Cup at the Civic Center (Nigeria 0, Iran 0; Snoozer)

Viewing the World Cup at the Civic Center (Nigeria 0, Iran 0; Snoozer)

The big screen is one nice little extra first introduced in the previous El Mundiale (however, the resolution is not great; you can’t read the score in the upper left). This year the City has upped its game, so to speak, and brought in even more extras. For example, you don’t have to just watch the game; you can play your own. Park and Rec dumped some old soccer balls onto the grassy areas (i.e., they don’t care if you take them home) and people have played among themselves. But if your preference runs to more organized events, you can join in some of the 4-on-4 street soccer games taking place opposite the big screen.

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And behind the street soccer court? Five food trucks, offering goodies from around the world.

As you can see from the top photo, Nigeria-Iran did not attract more than a few hundred people. USA-Ghana followed, and that game drew rather more.

View USA-Ghana at the Civic Center (USA 2, Ghana 1)

View USA-Ghana at the Civic Center (USA 2, Ghana 1)

The crowd did not consist solely of American supporters.

Ghanian Couple Attending the Match, 16 June 2014

Ghanian Couple Attending the Match, 16 June 2014

Strangely enough, the City did not shut itself down for the games. Nor did our city’s citizens, who amazingly enough conducted their own business, even if that business consisted of a picnic stretching perhaps just a little bit longer than their regularly scheduled lunch hour.

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And this couple! They got married during the games on 16 June!

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Come on–where are their priorities?!

The USA-Ghana thriller ended just as I departed work, so I missed the exciting finish, but I caught some of the crowd.

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And this picture comes from today’s Brazil-Mexico game. Notice anything different?

Brazilian and Mexican Fans During Their 0-0 Draw (an Exciting Game!)

Brazilian and Mexican Fans During Their 0-0 Draw (an Exciting Game!)

The fans are not segregated into sections and kept apart from each other. San Francisco has always had a huge mix of nationalities. There exists no good reason for disputing controversial referee calls with strangers because they might be your next door neighbors. The fact that the USA has arrived late on the international soccer scene probably has something to do with the peaceful scene.

And besides–it’s a party. Forget the squabbling and have some fun!

Vonn Scott Bair

Singing in the Office, 16 June 2014

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Good Evening:

At 8:40 a.m. today, several co-workers including your fearless correspondent, for perfectly sane, rational, logical, work-related reasons, began singing the refrain of “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” as the perfectly sane, rational, logical, work-related result of a perfectly sane, rational, logical, work-related discussion. Which baffled the heck out of all of us. Not the discussion (logical) or the song (awesome!), but the group.

No one could remember who first made “Thin Line Between Love and Hate.” My hypothesis: a one-hit wonder circa 1970 whose name began with “The” and ended in “-ells.” Actually, not that bad a guess–they had two other Top Ten hits on the R&B charts, but nothing as memorable as this masterpiece.

Now it’s your turn. In 1971, “Thin Line” peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100, but spent two weeks at #1 on the R&B charts. Without peeking at the Internet, can you tell me the name of the group?

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Do I have terrific co-workers or what?

PPS–UPDATE! The correct answer is The Persuaders, who had five Billboard R&B Top-25 hits from 1971-73 and then vanished.

I Don’t Mean to Brag–Well, Maybe Just a Tiny Little Bit…

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Good Evening:

“Madame de Vionnet,” writing for A Beast in a Jungle, another WordPress blog (!), has reviewed Sheherezade 14 and raved about the entire show. The entire production deserves it; I feel ridiculously fortunate to have become part of such a show. “Madame” has kind words in particular for “The Duck:”

My favorite play of the evening was The Duck, by Vonn Scott Bair, directed by Cayabyab. The premise is ”ripped from the headlines” with a twist. Mbele-Mbong plays Hope, an appropriate name for a character who does not give up. Her monologues are gut-wrenching as she describes what her life has become. The Duck is a well-crafted and beautifully acted short play, with Homan and Galloway delivering solid supporting performances.

What lies beyond “ridiculously fortunate?” Because that’s how I feel about director Wesley Cayabyab and actors Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, Cameron Galloway, and Rick Homan. I frequently use the phrase “legal cheating,” as in “having a director and cast this good feels like legal cheating,” but that phrase has never so true before.

Anyway, we have two more weeks, Thursday through Saturday, ending on the 28th. Hope you can attend!

Vonn Scott Bair

Extras at the Laundromat (Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra)

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Good Evening:

My laundromat is managed by a family that immigrated from Mexico. The man of the family stood on duty this afternoon, enjoying his spare time watching the World Cup on the flat screen that many laundries include as an extra for their customers. When Italy-England started, he received a visit from a pair of friends, both emigres from Brazil, who wanted to watch the game with him. As a kindness to their friend, they brought their own extra: takeout chicken stir-fried rice.

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So let’s recap: Two former Brazilians and one former Mexican ate Chinese as they watched Italy defeat England.

Now that is putting the Mundiale in El Mundiale.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–The Italians should feel both happy and dissatisfied with their victory. Beating an archrival like England always induces happiness, but the Three Lions penetrated Italy’s famed defense (“il catenaccio”) at will. The English #9 Sturridge in particular made the back four look like a bad four, and England should have at least tied the game. On the plus side, Sirigu might be the next Legendary Italian Keeper, and I really like the Blue Force to win the Cup–in 2018.

Dogs Beat Humans at Soccer! (Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra)

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However, Good Evening:

I have given myself an extra challenge for this week’s Extra Challenge: anything I post in response must portray soccer.

My first photograph seems to depict yet another boring shot of San Francisco’s Civic Center (cloudless skies are so dull!), but look closer:

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The City has added an extra in honor of the World Cup; miniature soccer fields for very young children.

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However, the first competitors I saw using one of the miniature fields were not children, they were a very small dog and his obedient pet human, engaged in a vigorous one-on-one contest. I can’t say that the skill level displayed by the antagonists reached World Cup standards, as witnessed by this human whiff that still sent the canine in the wrong direction.

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But when the ball went straight, the dog went straighter and faster. Which should surprise no one, as dogs have extra advantages at soccer that make them better than humans.

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Humans have to use both of their legs not only to run, but to control the ball. Dogs are faster than humans and can use all four of their legs solely for running, as they maintain control of the ball using their faces. My family had one English Bulldog named Robert who according to our car’s speedometer had a top running speed of 42 mph (!) and a wide flat face that gave him glue-like control over a ball. He also possessed the natural instinct of a good soccer player to keep his body between the ball and his human opponents. We never get the ball away from that dog.

If dogs could learn the virtues of putting the ball into the net and stopping penalty kicks, humans would have to give up the sport.

Vonn Scott Bair

Fabulously Fantastically Frantically Frightfully Fearlessly Freelance Forsaken Fulsome Flawed Futbol ’14 Forecasts!

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Good Evening:

And it’s probably a good thing I ran out of suitable f-words or I’d still be writing that friggin’ title.

I do not gamble, and even if I did, I would shun this year’s World Cup after reading of the match-fixing scandals in the New York Times. Furthermore, this year I see far too many strong squads with legitimate hopes to reach the semi-finals. This Cup is too unpredictable. However, as a true-blue red-blooded American, I cherish my right to wrong, and hereby present my predictions for the 2014 El Mundiale. You may think of these as your guide to what will not happen.

Surprise teams to reach the Round of 16: As in, I would feel surprised to see them reach the second round. Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Croatia. Algeria was not an easy team to beat in 2010, and they play in a weaker group this time around. Why Bosnia and Herzegovina? I don’t know; I just like writing Bosnia and Herzegovina. They do have goal-scoring potential. Croatia, despite its opening 3-1 loss to Brazil, still might sneak in. They play like maddened hornets that have drunk two too many double espressos, swarming wildly on both offense and defense, a confusing style that can inflict grief on careless opponents.

Absolutely shocking team to reach the Round of 16: Either the United States or Ghana. Whatever lies beyond brutal, that’s where Group G lives. I expect to see Germany and Portugal to record two wins and tie each other, while the USA and Ghana record two losses and tie each other. The USA has more going against it than the quality of opposition. First, Ghana (their long-time traditional rival [!?]) has kicked them out of the previous two Cups. Second, the team has alternated between Round of 16 and three-and-out since 1990, and this is another three-and-out year.

Surprise team to reach the quarterfinals: As in, I don’t expect to see this. Ivory Coast. They have had great teams in terrible draws for the past two Cups, and this year represents their last chance for glory.

Surprise team to reach the semi-finals: None. This Cup looks very, very deep to me; roughly a dozen teams seem to have good reason to believe they can reach the last four. Chile would represent perhaps a little bit of a surprise, simply because they first must survive a brutal Group B with 2010’s finalists Spain and the Netherlands. England might benefit from low expectations and leftover scorn from their last performance. I doubt that any of the London tabloids will repeat the mistake of the infamous 2010 EASY headline (England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks!). Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland (#6 in the world), maybe Russia, maybe Uruguay, Italy, Belgium, France–I predict a lot of high-quality games that yield low scores simply because the teams are too good.

The Final: No score terrifies Brazilians more than 2-1. Brazilians born last week have nightmares about the 1950 Final and Alcides Ghiggia (I wonder how instant deification in Uruguay feels). But I will go against the consensus and pick just that score again–with Argentina defeating A Selecao. A lot has to go right for the Albiceleste. Have you ever seen the legendary Futbol Club Barcelona live and in person? I have, and I have seen the reason Lionel Messi is Lionel Messi, and it isn’t Lionel Messi. It’s the stunning passing skills of his teammates, the fastest, straightest and most accurate I’ve ever seen. One touch passing? More like zero touch. No matter what defenses opponents use, Barca can get the ball to him. Argentina has to pass the ball as well as Barcelona for Messi to shine, and I don’t know if the team has played together long enough.

But Brazil! What a horrible burden of expectations! This is the first time they’ve hosted the Cup since 1950, and you know how that went. Adding to the pressure–the protests against the World Cup by Brazilians. The country has a lot of problems (and I don’t refer to their shaky preparations for 2014), and protests, strikes and other disruptions have erupted throughout, some of which has been directed at the players. I don’t think this is fair. Many chose soccer as an escape from poverty. A very attractive young lady and Brazilian ex-pat taught me a lot about the team in 1994; she claimed that Bebeto was the only player among the champs who grew up in a middle class family (I don’t know if this is true). They have enjoyed hero worship for years. Now their fellow citizens have grown angry with them!? This dislike won’t last, and probably disappeared with the opening whistle of today’s game, but all told, Brazil might not be able to function well in the Final will all of these psychological issues.

Now all I have to do is sit back, relax, and watch Brazil crush Spain 4-1 in the Final.

The one prediction I make that might turn out correctly? All of my previous predictions will be wrong.

Vonn Scott Bair