This post is intended for Americans.
The Netherlands drew Italy, France and Romania as their opponents for the first round of the 2008 European Football (meaning: soccer) Championship.
How to explain the significance of this? The tournament is the closest thing Europe has to a "Super Bowl," only it's much bigger since "Soccer" = U.S. Football, Baseball and Basketball all rolled into one in terms of popularity here.
This draw is like having a tournament of heavyweight boxers and drawing, I don't know, Mohammed Ali, Joe Louis and uh, Max Schmeling in the first round. Only the best two advance.
(Romania, the Max Schmeling of this metaphor, were coincidentally in the same qualifying group as the Dutch and came out ahead.)
So basically, there's a pretty big chance that the Dutch will be crying into their beers within a week of the tournament's start.
But I mention all this for another reason: I want to make a plea to all sports nuts, sports writers and other hacks:
Can we just agree to drop the "Group of Death" cliche now? There's still time. The tournament doesn't start for another eight months or so.
The first time I ever heard that phrase I (like, 8 years ago I guess) I thought it was a graphic way of putting things. The second time I thought _ where have I heard this before? And since then it's just like having a good nipple twist each time I hear it.
There's always a group of death, and the Dutch are always in it.
Does even the New York Times, (with its noted football experts), have to ride this dumb hobby horse?
Dutch coach Marco van Basten:
"In the 2006 World Cup they were saying we were in the 'Group of Death' _ how are they going to describe this group then?"
France and Italy, the two finalists of the last World Cup. Johan Cruyff, the greatest Dutch player of all, said famously of the Italians, "Italians can't beat us, but we can lose to them."
Don't cry _ at least it's not Argentina and Brazil.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007