This Week in Football + Futbol [Dec 4]

soccer at meadowlands

hiding from world cup draw simulators

What a month it’s been! Between wasting hours on World Cup draw simulators and watching AFC teams do their best to NOT make the playoffs, it’s been quite the emotional rollercoaster for fans of these two sports. But this week is crazier than ever…so GET READY!

World Cup Draw, 11am on Friday
The draw might sound like a glorified Powerball selection, but I promise it’ll be a nail-biter. Everything is on the line, and ending up in the Group of Death can seal a country’s fate an entire six months before kickoff. In true FIFA form, they’ve introduced a mysterious “Pot X” to shake things up and sound dramatic. But in reality it’s nothing drastic – the new rules simply ensure that three European teams can’t end up in the same group. Pot X or not, the teams look absolutely terrifying, and this is one of the toughest fields in a long time. For USA fans, the possibility of a Group of Death with Brazil, Netherlands, and Italy is more depressing than Tim Howard shaving his beard. My advice? Cancel your meetings, hold a paper bag, and pray to Sir Ian Darke – the draw is here!

Fantasy Football Playoffs
As a Jets fan, fantasy football is my only hope for happiness in the NFL. I control my own fate (to an extent), which is a wonderful respite from the never-ending turmoil of following Rex, Geno, and the antics of Gang Green. For most fantasy players, this is the first week of playoffs, where your regular season success goes out the window and you’re at the mercy of injuries, infuriating coaching decisions, and other factors that can result in a dud week for even the most reliable starters. If you don’t play fantasy, I advise you to maintain a ten foot distance from anyone who does during the hours of noon to midnight on Sunday. If you do play and survived into the playoffs – may the odds be ever in your favor.

Colts @ Bengals, 1pm on Sunday
We’re just going to go ahead and ignore the heinous situation that is the AFC sixth seed. If you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole, I recommend the NFL Playoff Machine, partially because I built it and am shamlessly self-promoting, and partially because it’ll kill the next six hours of your life. Anyway, the matchup to watch this week is Colts-Bengals. They’re both pretty much guaranteed to make the playoffs at 8-4, but they’re neck and neck as the third and fourth seeds. Indy wins the tiebreaker currently, and a win over the Bengals would seal that position. Why is the third seed so important? They play the sixth seed in the first round of the playoffs, which is pretty appetizing in the AFC this year (see above).

With only four weeks left in the NFL regular season, and the biggest international soccer event until the World Cup on Friday, you should probably just park yourself on the couch Thursday through Monday. Who needs sunlight anyway?

This Week in Football + Futbol [Oct 22]

soccer at meadowlands

no vuvuzelas at the meadowlands? the nerve!

Welcome back to the second installment of This Week in Football + Futbol! If you’re new and wondering what all this weekly column nonsense is about, you can check out my first attempt here. If you’re back because you loved my scintillating original post, then I shower you with gratitude and unicorns. Enjoy!

NFL Teams Are Hurtin’
Week 7 was painful, literally. We saw a slew of major contributors go down with season-ending injuries – Reggie Wayne (Colts WR) with a torn ACL, Brian Cushing (Texans LB) with a broken leg and torn LCL, Leon Hall (Bengals CB) with an Achilles tear, Sam Bradford (Rams QB) with a torn ACL, and Jermichael Finley (Packers TE) with a terrifying collision that resulted in a severe neck injury. And those are just the season-ending ones. It’ll take a much longer post than this to talk about the larger picture here, but Sunday was yet another jarring day in the saga that is the truth about NFL player safety. If you haven’t watched it yet, I can’t recommend Frontline’s League of Denial enough, it’s truly eye-opening. Looking forward to Week 8, the array of injuries bring some interesting story lines to matchups that look pretty yawn-worthy on paper. Can the terrible Giants eke out another win over the QB-less Eagles? Will Geno avoid another pick six without Hall suiting up? Will the British become avid football (not futbol!) fans watching the Jags get stomped at Wembley? Yeah that last one was a joke.

UEFA Playoff Draw
In the final round of World Cup qualifying, the UEFA region has some interesting matchups after this week’s playoff draw. Portugal-Sweden, Ukraine-France, Greece-Romania, Iceland-Croatia – the winners punch their ticket to Brazil. By far the best story line here is Ibrahimovic vs. Ronaldo, two star players who have lifted their respective teams to contenders on the international stage. November will be fun.

Cowboys @ Lions, 1pm on Sunday
NFC showdown! Both these teams have a lot riding on this game. The Lions are 4-3 and and right on the heels of the division-leading Packers, and Dallas is also 4-3 on top of the NFC East with the Eagles only one game back. Depending on how their divisions shake out, both these teams could be vying for a playoff wild card spot, where a conference win is crucial. To add to the excitement, the Cowboys are 30th in the league against the pass, so we may be in for another Megatron explosion. Plus, it’s always fun trying to predict which Tony Romo will show up on Sunday. If it’s the Week 5 one we’re in for quite the shootout!

World Cup Draw Simulator Magically Appears on the Internet…
…immediately destroys productivity. Say goodbye to the next two hours (and months) of your life! Here’s the link, you’ve been warned. Other than resulting in total mania for futbol fans, this simulator shows just how competitive this World Cup field is. Any way you shake it, the groups look pretty ridiculous. As if we couldn’t get any more pumped for a World Cup in Brazil, this tournament is going to be a month of incredible futbol and crazy upsets. CAN’T WAIT!

Gadget Geek Fatigue

I was a little girl who loved sports and gadgets. Thanks to a computer scientist dad and a feminist mother, my sister and I went to basketball camp instead of Girl Scouts, and played with Lego Mindstorms instead of Barbies. Our grandfather, also an engineer, contributed to our tomboyish upbringing via his obsession with any new piece of technology. Instead of the zoo or playground, he’d take me on a monthly grandfather-granddaughter excursion to…(drum roll please)…Best Buy! We’d roam the aisles and try out any random gadgets we could find, until we each picked out something new to buy. I’d come home beaming with the latest calculator or digital pocket organizer in hand, and spend hours in my room learning all its features.

Sometimes I miss that innocent excitement for the next coolest thing. At that age I never cared what the long-term benefits were for the Casio Digital Diary in my hand, or if it would work in tandem with the closetful of devices I had back home. In a pre-cloud era, it simply didn’t matter.

In today’s saturated technology market, I find myself constantly assessing products in the context of their ecosystem. I own a Macbook, iPad, and iPhone and the seamless experience of transitioning between Apple devices has me locked into their products. The same goes for Google – my online identity is so tied to Google via Gmail, Google+, Maps, and more, that I’ll immediately switch to using any new Google product so I can tie more of my experience to a central entity. I love Evernote, but I’m moving to Google Keep the second it comes to iOS.

The idea of creating yet another identity from scratch feels cumbersome – setting up a profile, choosing preferences, and downloading apps. It’s why we prefer signing into sites with Facebook, Twitter, or Google instead of using custom registration. But it also brings a wariness of new devices that don’t fit into our current ecosystems. It’s why I won’t consider buying a Samsung Galaxy Gear (other than the negative reviews), when I could wait for an Apple watch that syncs with my laptop, tablet, and phone. It’s also why I prefer my Apple TV over a smart TV, even if some of them have better apps. While it’s great to approach purchases from a holistic perspective, I sometimes yearn for a time when I didn’t care about the permanence of that shiny new gadget and just bought the damn thing!

This Week in Football + Futbol [Oct 14]

soccer at meadowlands

futbol in a football stadium – it’s a beautiful thing

I’m trying something new and I need your full loyal-reader-of-dheerja.com support to help me through this journey – a weekly column! Welcome to the first edition of This Week in Football + Futbol, an attempt to bring together my two favorite sports that are traditionally on opposite ends of the sports fan spectrum. I’ll focus on the NFL, for those of us who love devoting 12 hours on Sunday (and Thursday and Monday…) to the most American of sports, and on international soccer, for those of us who love supporting America as an underdog in the world’s biggest sport. Here goes!

Pats @ Jets, 1pm on Sunday
My first one and I already want to hide under my bed and delete this post forever. For us Jets fans, the only thing worse than playing the Pats is playing the Pats a week after Brady throws a beautiful game-winning touchdown and we suffer a devastating loss to the hated Steelers. Really, it doesn’t get much worse than this. The silver lining? Final touchdown aside, Brady is clearly not himself this season. While a lot of the blame lies with his crappy receiving corps, his accuracy has been downright un-Bradylike. Time to bring back the hair? There’s so much hate in this rivalry, and the Jets D is a force to be reckoned with, so tune in on Sunday to see it all go down at the Meadowlands! Wilfork vs. Rex sideline eating contest anyone?

FIFA World Rankings released Thursday
The monthly FIFA Rankings are usually a source of amusement for international soccer fans. Oh you mean the organization that thinks it’s a good idea to move the World Cup to winter can accurately rank teams with no bias whatsoever? Hah. Unfortunately, this Thursday’s release has real life implications for Brazil 2014 – they’ll be used to determine what countries will be seeded in the World Cup draw this December. The US has never been seeded, and the chances are slim this time, but we’ve seen crazier things from Sepp Blatter!

Return of the Backup QBs
Week 6 had Nick Foles, Thad Lewis, and Mike Glennon as top ten fantasy QBs, above Brees and Peyton. Sometimes fantasy makes you want to punch a wall. Sometimes fantasy makes you actually punch that wall. Anyway, keep an eye out to see if any of these guys can sustain those numbers, unless they’re unseated by injuries and/or a returning QB. Foles is making a strong case to keep the reins when Vick comes back, so we might get an always-fun QB controversy as a bonus.

Mexico @ Costa Rica, 9:30pm on Tuesday
International soccer takes rivalries to a new level. Americans aren’t good at accepting inferiority, and Mexico’s historical dominance in CONCACAF has created tension of epic proportions (sharing a border doesn’t help either). I could go on, but to get a real idea you should read accounts of USA vs. Mexico in Estadio Azteca. But for the first time, Mexico has struggled in World Cup qualifying, losing to the US in a repeat of “Dos A Cero!” along the way. Not qualifying for Brazil is a very real possibility for El Tri, and tomorrow’s match is a must-win to stay alive. If their victory over Panama on Friday with this insane bicycle kick goal is any indicator that Chicharito and crew are out for blood, you can’t miss this one.

Check back next week for round two!

The Power of Nostalgia

I was in the middle of a much-needed emotional break from yesterday’s Denver-Dallas shootout (my fantasy matchup had five Broncos players between the two of us), when this Samsung Galaxy Gear commercial froze me mid-laundry folding. As it cycled through my childhood via sound bites from the Power Rangers, Inspector Gadget, and Star Trek, I was completely hooked. Maybe I’m just a sentimental 90s kid, evidenced by the multiple episodes of TaleSpin I watched on YouTube this weekend, but I thought Samsung’s appeal to our nostalgic side was pure genius.

It got me thinking about the power of nostalgia, and the role it plays in today’s obsession with the “now”. Twitter, push notifications, wearable technology – we constantly strive for the instantaneous. But at the same time, we place that much more value in looking back and memorializing our lives. One of my favorite apps is Timehop, a daily time capsule that shows your day today 1 year ago, 2 years ago, etc. My Timehop today showed me a restaurant I checked into on Foursquare last year, a couple self-loathing posts I wrote about the Jets on Twitter four years ago, and a charity event I helped organize in college seven years ago. I love kicking off my morning with some quality reminiscing time, and reading the yearly emotional rollercoaster of a Jets fan is always masochistically amusing.

Of course, I couldn’t use Timehop without services like Foursquare that chronicle my life on a daily basis. Quantified self apps are slowly entering the mainstream – Moves, Chronos, and even Google Now record every second of our day, leveraging the data to understand our lifestyle patterns.

This massive amount of data is yet another way for us to document our lives, motivated by the same reasons we take pictures on vacation or write blog posts and journals about our travels. In ten years I can look back on my day today and know that I walked 8,500 steps, ate at my favorite Singaporean restaurant with friends, and cheered on the USA national team at Jack Demsey’s. As we become increasingly intent on chronicling our lives instantaneously, we feed our nostalgic side even more, so our future selves can see exactly how awesome it was to be our 2013 selves!