Checking In On Some International Sports & A Sports/Cultural Examination | Sharapova's Thigh

There have been huge stories in the world of international sport that I don’t feel get covered that much, if at all, in the U.S. (mainly the four-letter network). There are four main sports that the international community seem to embrace and that’s what I’ll cover. If you, as most Americans, don’t give two shakes, well…there is some good writing and pretty ladies on this site, hopefully they’ll entertain you during your visit.


The big news in the current offseason for the major European leagues was former Manchester United, and Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo, moving to Real Madrid for roughly $132 million. This was after Real Madrid had already bought Brazilian captain and AC Milan superstar Kaka’ for a cool $121 million. In world soccer there is no salary cap and the salaries for both of these players are way over £100k/week, with incentives and all. You may not think that this is a ton of money, as bigger deals have been struck in the U.S. (A-Rod for example).

The BernabĂ©u (Real’s stadium) capacity is 80,354, and it sold out…twice…to see these guys. They didn’t play, they didn’t practice, didn’t even juggle a ball, they just took a line from Jimmy Dugan and walked out, tipped their little hats…and got paid.

This summer, Real has spent $382 million bolstering their forces in what is to be an interesting campaign. This has caused the transfer market to go insane and inflating transfer prices in a global economic time that is by no means “solid”. Real, as people think, are trying to buy a championship in Spain and have taken their share of criticism for it. They do have an equivalent in England, who are under just as much scrutiny.

Manchester City, not United, now owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (the brother of the guy that rules Abu Dhabi) has spent roughly $164 million bringing in six big names to a team that was perennially a mid-tier team. The names, whilst you may be unfamiliar with, are household names across the pond and it will be interesting to see if the Steinbrenner approach will work in Madrid or in the blue side of Manchester. I could go on and on about soccer, about how the U.S. did at the Confederations Cup, the west side of London…but I promised other topics.

Rugby Union and League (yes, there are 2 types of rugby)…

The Tri-Nations tournament is currently underway. The tournament is between South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in Rugby Union (the type of rugby that you’ll see at US universities).

World #1 South Africa beat Australia this weekend to take a good hold on the tournament after previously beating New Zealand. Australia, who is in a constant state of rebuilding after quite a few veterans left and a new coach still trying to find his way showed lack in discipline, causing penalty after penalty giving South Africa penalty kick after penalty kick (field goals essentially).

This has showed a fault in the new IRB (International Rugby Board, the governing body of rugby union) rules. These types of penalties before the rule change, you just get the ball, and no “field goal” which promoted running rugby, a more fun to watch game. South Africa kicked seven penalty kicks to win the game, and trust me, it was a boring 80 minutes to watch.

Staying in Australia, the NRL (the National Rugby League, the other type of rugby) has encountered a good number of problems this year. Only two teams out of the 16 declared a profit in 2008 (the South Sydney Rabbitohs, owned by Russell Crowe, were not one of them). Another star player for the Melbourne Storm is caught up in a scandal, allegedly beating his girlfriend.

The following has already happened this year in the sport:

-East Sydney Roosters player fined for public urination
-Another East Sydney Roosters player arrested for public drunkenness and defecating in a hotel corridor (nice!)
-Brisbane Broncos players admit being hungover before State of Origin (equivalent to the All Star game, but taken a lot more seriously than a Pro Bowl or MLB all star game)
-Other Brisbane Broncos players being charged for using performance enhancing drugs
-Manly Sea Eagles star player charged with sexual assault/harassment before season starts
-Rape allegations for a few Cronulla Sharks players (six guys, one girl) including one former player, now assistant coach/sideline commentator
-Another Cronulla Sharks player ‘glassing’ his American girlfriend. He had a beer glass in his hand, got pissed at her and slammed it in her face, cutting her severely. Classy…

And with the best players now heading to England, France or Japan for bigger salaries, as the salary cap in Australia per team, is $3 million…the sport is in trouble for the #1 rated country.


The Ashes is currently going on. This is a best-of-five series between Australia and England(I’ve been living in Australia for the last year…hence the constant Australia theme). The series is currently tied at 1-1 with one match to go (there have been a couple draws).

I understand why people may not like cricket, as it takes up to five days to complete a full match, which can even end in a draw. However, cricket encounters relatively the same issues that baseball does, minus the steroids. I could go into more specifics on how Andrew Flintoff at age 28 is going to retire. Or how Australia’s batsmen were poor during first couple matches.

The influence of the IPL (India Premier League) on the game and various forms of the game-changing tactics as a whole are topics well worth discussing...but I might change it up. Injuries, historical star players, players moving teams, and other things similar to baseball are all prevalent in cricket, but the one thing that stands out is the sense of tradition that’s lost in baseball these days and a constant ‘colonists vs. Empire’ feel to the sport that’s truly amazing.

England created cricket a long, long time ago, and today the best teams are:
-New Zealand
-South Africa
-and the West Indies (notice how they’re not called the Caribbean).

All of these were former colonies of the British Empire (the US doesn't even have a team) and each has their own distinct tactics and issues. Names like the Yorker, the Doosra, the Wrong-Un, are all different types of pitches (or bowls as they're called).

The wicket (the ground) plays a huge part of the game and so does the locale. In Western Australia, the “Freemantle Doctor” (the strong left to right winds) plays a big part and spin bowlers are preferred rather than pace men (fast pitchers). You can tell, I’m all in on cricket. I’ve had the opportunity to watch, in person and on television, a good amount of cricket. Six out of seven continents (get with it Antarctica) play the sport. It’s the most popular sport in India (who has a population of 1.2 billion people), so you can’t deny it’s not popular worldwide and I understand why. If you get the opportunity to watch it…give it a chance.

Enough of the sentimental stuff.

Formula One…

NASCAR doesn’t even get sniff the popularity of F1 or the amount of money it brings in to the sport, though it is more volatile, with teams either making a lot of money or not making enough to compete and having to drop out altogether. Like cricket, there’s a competition on six of the seven continents and is extremely popular worldwide.

The biggest news this year is that Michael Schumacher, the seven-championship-winning tall German is back after a three-year hiatus at age 40. He’s not back for good, but back nevertheless.

Brazilian Felipe Massa was hit in the head by debris from another car going 150mph and is out of action for a few races…so Mikey’s back at the reigns for Ferrari.

Other stories, that haven’t been covered on the Disney-owned network include the down-force issue. Some cars had a part on their car, after the new rule changes, and after an appeals process by the teams that didn’t have it, that creates more down-force, and in turn, more grip, equaling better handling and performance. Since not all teams did this, others had the option of using the KERS system, which enables a quick boost of power creating a faster straight line speed…this system is now only used by one team as the equipment is heavy and a burden when not in use and is on its way out of the sport.

Then there was the elephant in the room that was the money issue in F1. Brakes, which are deemed expendable and need to be replaced every two or three races, cost the equivalent of two semesters at a state university, and there are 20 races in the season. Money in the sport was out of control and the only teams that could afford to stay were the big names. The small guys couldn’t compete and dropped out if they didn’t perform well.

The FIA, the governing body of F1, wanted to change this…and they did…a little bit, but lost their president Max Mosley, after he and the head of F1 butt heads repeatedly, and big teams such as McClaren and Ferrari threatened to walk and create their own racing series.

As for the actual racing, Jenson Button won five of the first six races and since hasn’t been in the top three, which could equal a massive choke.

Red Bull has come out of nowhere to have two amazing cars and now bring in the youngest driver to race in F1 (a Spaniard aged 18) in a controversial move.

I didn’t mean to ramble on, but I did and still am, and feel as though I am not getting my point across. I am a firm believer that sport is a defining component of a nation’s culture and in my opinion the U.S. is especially introverted.

If you look at the U.S. and Canada, they are involved in sports that no one else plays. The NFL (gridiron as it’s called down under) is great but not one other country plays it professionally. Canada has their own mutant form of it, and half the teams are called the Roughnecks, but that’s their thing, and isn’t popular in the U.S., let alone the rest of the world.

Basketball, while gaining popularity worldwide, is still dominated by the U.S., not only in players but the league as well.

Baseball is changing as Asian and other Central/South American leagues are holding their own, and have been contributing to the MLB for a while now, but are still deemed ‘lesser’ in their countries' competitions.

The NHL, is a bit different as it’s the least profitable out of the big sports in the U.S. and does have leagues that are almost as good in Europe, but the sport as a whole doesn’t have the international appeal. No one in the land down under can name one NHL team, but they all know Kobe and the Lakers.

The MLS is rated lower than the A-League (Australia) according to FIFA and the A-League has only been around for four years, and though Beckham and a few other old super stars of soccer are there…the MLS will never be able to compete with the European leagues as the mentality of soccer is not yet big enough to compete with the other sports in the U.S. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing the U.S. tells the rest of the world to "go kick rocks” in terms of other sports, it’s just the it is are and how the U.S. developed.

The U.S. liberated itself from the British due to taxation without representation, religious freedom, and social standing and this includes sport. We drive on the other side of the road, use different measuring systems, have a more capitalist point of view, and rather see three and goal with 20 seconds left and one timeout, than watch the great angle running, or 40-20 kicking of rugby.

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