It's Thursday and the mailbag is a day early because I'm in Chicago for family vacation. Tomorrow we've got an early start at the children's museum and I don't want my wife to kill me for writing the mailbag and making everyone wait. So I'm writing it today.
Our beaver pelt trader of the week is Jurgen Klinsmann because the way he went into the World Cup -- leaving Landon Donovan off the team and giving a ton of interesting quotes -- that guaranteed he'd either look like a genius or an idiot. Then on Monday afternoon the US finally beat Ghana on a late goal with a second half substitution, John Brooks, who many thought didn't even believe to be on the team.
On to the mailbag.
Several on you on email: "Why are American soccer fans so angry about "fairweather fans" cheering for the US in the World Cup?"
Soccer and hockey fans have something in common -- they're both popular sports, but they're outside the mainstream of American sporting discourse. Football, basketball, and baseball are inside the sports mainstream. That is, you rarely hear fans of these sports complain about the millions of new fans who flock to the big games at the end of their seasons. There are tens of millions of people who watch the Super Bowl, the NCAA Tournament, the NBA playoffs, and the World Series who barely pay attention to the regular seasons of these sports at all. The same thing happens in soccer and hockey, but fans are much more defensive of these sports.
Many fans of soccer and hockey only want purists, people who live and die with the sport all season long, to watch the games. They get annoyed when the masses arrive. Soccer is even worse than hockey. Probably because many soccer fans decided to become fans of the sport precisely because it was outside the sporting mainstream. Soccer was the ultimate hipster sport. What do hipsters hate more than anything? When their favorite thing becomes popular with the masses. Which is self-defeating, of course, because in order for the United States to become really good, soccer has to become more popular in the country. But for many soccer fans it isn't about winning or losing, it's about being a fan of soccer and what that says about them. So soccer fans are upset that normal American sports fans, the very fans they were trying to distinguish themselves from, enjoy the sport during the World Cup.
I happen to believe that hockey will always be a niche sport because the vast majority of us will never play hockey. Soccer, on the other hand, will eventually become one of the top three sports in America. Probably within the next twenty years. Go watch the crowds for US soccer games. There's almost no one over the age of fifty there. The crowds are very young. As baseball's fans die off -- and they're dying off every day -- soccer will be the biggest beneficiary. And that will drive many soccer "fans" crazy.
Will G. writes:
"Why haven't you written much about the Ed O'Bannon NCAA trial?"
Because whatever the result is at the trial court level, the opinion will be more important than anything that happens at the trial itself. The case will be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. So whatever the trial court says, in the grand scheme of things, really won't matter that much at all. While I'm interested in the trial court decision, I'm not that interested in the actual trial.
The Ed O'Bannon case was filed five years ago and I still believe we're years from a resolution of this case.
With two boys perhaps the Frozen craze didn't hit your house as hard as others. It's obviously been a huge hit and a serious moneymaker for Disney. Most Frozen related merchandise sells out instantly and Disney park visitors are waiting for up to five hours just to meet the sisters. Many people are commenting about how great it is that the movie showcases how two sisters overcome adversity instead of the same old prince rescuing the helpless maiden storyline. I think the obvious question here is which sister is hotter? And how would you compare them to existing Disney princesses like you did in a previous column.
Anna has the girl next door thing going for her and would certainly be an appealing option. But Elsa is the queen so it would be pretty cool to be a King.The obvious pitfall with Elsa however is that the years of isolation would likely contribute to her being completely crazy. That and of course her magicical ice powers. I am sure there are fun applications but wouldn't we all be dead if our wives had this power?
Thanks for all the work you put into the site. It's always a great read. I would rather you not put my name because my wife will think I am absolutely crazy. At least she can't freeze me."
I haven't seen the movie Frozen -- my wife and the boys have seen it a ton of times and my six year old walks around singing, "Let It Go." Given that I'm not familiar with the Frozen girls yet, I went to the experts -- my boys, ages six and three, and asked them who they liked the best and why.
Lincoln, age three, said he liked Elsa the best "Because she has superpowers." Fox, age six, said he liked Elsa the best because, "She's blond and pretty." (Welcome to the next eighty years of your life, big guy.)
So the Travis boys are all in on Team Elsa.
Dave F. writes:
"I've noticed that beer alternatives like cider and hard lemonade market almost exclusively to men and air many commercials during sporting events. I can't recall a time where I've seen any of my friends drink one of these things, nor have I witnessed any males drinking one at a bar. I can't imagine the weird looks I'd get if I brought a six pack of Red's Strawberry Ale to the World Cup party I'm going to on Sunday. Who is drinking this stuff? My only theory is guys with gluten allergies who don't like liquor, and that number can't be very high."
At some point in their late 20's I think most guys decide whether they're primarily liquor or beer drinkers. That doesn't mean you don't drink both, just that you have a preference if you're ordering. For instance, I tend to drink beer more than liquor. (This doesn't mean that I'm normal. I recently ordered a round of sangrias for a table of eight). "Microbrews" -- I'm putting this in quotation because many of the microbrews are owned by bigger beer companies -- are probably following the lead of bigger beer companies when they introduced light beer back in the day. Light beers -- such as the always tasty Bud Light which is the presenting sponsor of Outkick -- had to convince men to drink the product because there just weren't enough women beer drinkers to make enough money off just women. If men would drink light beer, then the product would work. I suspect beer is still marketed to men because men buy the vast majority of beer, even the strawberry flavored beers.
You know the best marketing campaign of late, by the way? Michelob Ultra, which has managed to make drinking beer seem healthy. Walk around the bar and if a thin woman is drinking beer, there's a good chance it's an Ultra. That marketing campaign where men and women are doing athletic things and then drinking beer was genius for distinguishing their product.
Anyway, the microbrew market is exploding, but the key to huge sales is regular guys buying microbrews too, not just the guy making beers in his basement. I like all kinds of beer. So I'd probably drink Red's Strawberry Ale if you brought it to the World Cup party. (I'd definitely get made fun of for drinking it too). I'm in Chicago right now and went to my college buddy's house for dinner last night and he had dozens of different kinds of beer there. I think that's increasingly common.
Stephen S. writes:
"I recently rewatched the movie "The Final Countdown" in which a modern aircraft carrier was thrown back in time to 1941 near Hawaii, just hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The movie introduced the premise that a single modern warship would devastate a WWII era fleet.
This got me to thinking about modern soldiers on the ground and how few it would take to win an entire war from history. For example, could a SEAL platoon (16 men) who had access only to the weapons and ammunition they could carry (no airstrikes or artillery barrages), but with access to air dropped supplies from which they could restock, defeat an entire Civil War era army?
Just the difference and speed from which modern soldiers could engage their enemy would be dramatic. Civil War soldiers regularly engaged from 40-50 yards, standing shoulder to shoulder, firing three inaccurate volleys per minute. Some estimates are that only 1 shot in 300 resulted in an enemy casualty. Meanwhile, your "average" SEAL could easily and accurately engage 10 different targets per minute from a distance of 250-300 yards while concealed by cover and protected by body armor. With modern technology like night vision goggles, radio communications and battlefield medicine, the SEAL platoon would have an incredible advantage over the opposing army and could pick and choose their battlefields.
To "win" the war, the SEALs would need to kill enough soldiers and eliminate enough commanding officers, ideally without ever being seen, that the "legend" of their presence caused the opposing soldiers to run away and refuse to fight. So could a 16-man SEAL platoon defeat a 100,000-man strong Union or Confederate army?"
I think what you're missing here is the power of Civil War artillery. While I acknowledge that a direct frontal assault on 16 navy seals would be a casualty-laden, keep in mind that cannons from the Civil War era were accurate over great distances. So you could set up an artillery barrage and potentially wipe out the seals that way without having to commit troops at all. The seals would be virtually powerless to combat the artillery since they couldn't get close enough to disable the batteries of cannons.
Even without cannons, let's assume that a Pickett's Charge type assault happened upon 16 entrenched Navy Seals. The attacking lines would stretch nearly a mile long. While many of the troops would be sitting ducks -- the casualty rate would be brutal directly in front of the seals -- the attacking column would wrap around the seals and flank them pretty quickly. Eventually there would be attackers coming from all directions, front, to the sides, and the rear. Even with inaccurate aim, there would be tons of minie balls peppering the seal position. Given that your hypothesis only allows the seals to have whatever ammunition they could carry, they'd run out before more materials could be dropped to aid them. Eventually their position would be overrun.
So building on your question, how many navy seals would it take to defeat a modern Union or Confederate army if the seals had unlimited modern day supplies? I'm thinking 2000 seals could defeat a 100,000 man army if the army is forced to attack them. For instance, if I had to choose between having the modern day seals or General Lee's army at Gettysburg, I'm going seals. The big caveat here is that I'm still not sure the seals could attack and win any battles. So if you put General Meade's army in the exact same defensive position at Gettysburg, how many attacking seals would it take to win the battle and rout the Union army? I'm thinking at least 5000 seals would need to attack. (They'd obviously attack differently, probably crawling out under the cover of night and then commencing an attack at night using their night vision goggles. The biggest threat for the seals would be artillery, but you could neutralize that impact by spreading out a great deal and forcing the cannons to hit one or two people at a time. Of course, by spreading out, you've also virtually guaranteed that every time a cannon fires it hits someone.)
I know we have a ton of readers in military service, one of you guys can probably deliver a stellar analysis of both tactical positions. How many seals do y'all think it would take?
"When I was a teenage boy I had this really rich uncle. I never met him till I was 11 and he was kind of an asshole. He never got me anything good for Christmas or my birthday and wasn't very nice. You would think I would care, but instead I loved him. Why, he owned a porn store. Heaven for me and probably you. He gave me free access and my parents never knew. This got me thinking. Other than a porn store, what kind of place would be heaven for a teenage boy from our generation to spend basically all of their free time at in secret?"
From our generation? It's gotta be a go cart track. I mean, it wouldn't have to be a secret, but if your uncle owned one of those awesome go-cart tracks from Pigeon Forge back in the day, are you telling me that racing your buddies would ever get old? Hell, I'd like to own a go-cart track now and I'm 35. Every guy reading this right now would have flipped out if you'd had unlimited access to go-carts when you were 11-15 years old. My second favorite option would have been an indoor basketball court. I'd still like to have an indoor basketball court today too.
I only applied to five schools: George Washington, Georgetown, University of Virginia, Davidson, and Wake Forest. I went to GW because with my scholarship, it was the cheapest.
If I had to do it all over again, I would go to Stanford. That's because Stanford's the best school in the country. I had good test scores and given the need for geographic diversity, I probably would have gotten in. (How many kids from Tennessee do you think applied to Stanford back in 1997? Twenty? That many?) The only places west of the Mississippi I had been back then were Arkansas and Texas. I visited Stanford in college and discovered it was utopia.
So I would have gone to Stanford. If Stanford turned me down, I'd probably still go to GW. GW was good for me because living on the east coast toughens you up. People on the east coast are all bitchy assholes. Seriously, they are. I probably would have been too nice, thin-skinned, and worried about what people thought about me if I'd gone somewhere else for college. I certainly wouldn't have been able to handle Alabama fans without living on the east coast first. That's for sure.
Brian H. writes:
"I recently got invited to one of those coed baby showers that all of us guys really get thrilled over attending. As luck would have it, I had plans to be out of town that weekend, so I could not make it. I did, however, think it would be appropriate to get a gift and send it with someone else who was attending. I got the gift, and then realized the only wrapping paper I had was for Christmas. I did not think is was a big deal... I am not going to go back out so look for some baby shower themed wrapping paper (if that even exists) just for this one gift. So I just wrapped it in Christmas themed paper, complete with a bow and a to/from tag that said "No Peaking Until Christmas" and dropped it off with a friend a few days before the shower. I found out afterwards that his fiance refused to carry my gift into the shower and made him carry it instead, because she didn't want people to think that she did it. My question is, was I an ass by doing this, or is it not a big deal? Apparently the father-to-be thought it was awesome. I think it would have been much worse to not get a gift at all."
There are two consumer industries that I truly despise and they're related: the greeting card and wrapping paper industries. I hate both of them, particularly the greeting card industry. Do you know what these damn cards cost now? Like six or seven dollars. For a crappy, cliched message that you just sign your name to. Every time I get one without a hand-written message inside, I think: "You know how much I care about you? Enough to sign my name on the inside of this crappy card. That's how much."
Every time I get a purchased card without a message inside of it, I think, why not mail me $6 and an index card with your signature on it instead?
As for wrapping paper, I hate wrapping gifts. Maybe it's because now I'm the dad and I just see how much waste of paper this all is. At Christmas it's always the dad who is trying to corral all the wasted wrapping paper to avoid your house turning into a bonfire. Plus, when you guy it you always end up with too much wrapping paper and then it's all disorganized and hanging sideways off the roll. Then whenever dads like me try to wrap a gift we tear off too much or too little and the package looks like it was mailed from Tibet 18 months beforehand.
I understand why kids like wrapping paper, it's awesome to tear off, but why do adults need our presents wrapped too?
"Merry Christmas, you got socks."
The damn socks aren't going to be any more exciting if you have to tear through some Christmas wrapping paper to get to them, in fact, you're probably going to be pissed that you have to clean up a mess for some damn socks.
Anyway, I hate cards and wrapping paper. You're just lucky you go to miss the couples shower.