Sunday afternoon sports update while listening to Marcia Ball:
Spain's national soccer team stunk up the stadium last night against Sweden, losing 2-0 and seriously complicating their classification for the 2008 Eurocup. Remember, they already lost against Northern Ireland, which is pathetic, and did poorly at the World Cup, making it out of the first group but falling in the round of 16.
The entire country is screaming for the head of coach Luis Aragonés, best known internationally for his racist reference to Thierry Henry while trying to fire up his team. No question that Aragonés must go. As someone down at the bar said to me last night, "I'm rooting for us to lose so Aragonés will get fired. Fuck the Eurocup, we'd never qualify anyway with him as coach."
Names being thrown around as possible replacements are Miguel Angel Lotina and Vicente del Bosque. I'd give the job to either Emilio Butragueño or Txiki Beguiristain, both of whom are intelligent, respected, and well-spoken, are former star players, and have spent time as general managers of big clubs. Bernd Schuster would be another good choice, if the Spanish federation would accept a foreign coach, and I'm not sure why they shouldn't. Schuster, current coach with Getafe and former player on Barça, Real, and Atlético, knows Spanish football as well as anyone. For sure, it's time that Spain breaks with the Aragonés generation of coaches and goes with somebody younger, 40 or 45 years old, who can communicate with this generation of players and who is hungry for success.
With the exception of the football team, Spain is riding high on sports successes. The basketball team won the world championship, Rafael Nadal won the French Open, and if you call going around in circles really fast a sport, then Fernando Alonso in Formula One and Dani Pedrosa in Moto GP are both world champions. Alonso is quite a piece of work, blaming his pit crew and his teammate Fisichella whenever something goes wrong. What a capullo. The basketball guys, though, came off as all-Spanish clean-cut heroes, with Pau Gasol as the hero sitting on the bench with a broken foot in the championship game cheering his teammates on.
The Cataloonies are now hacked off at Gasol because he made a big deal of how much he loved playing for Spain and being with the other guys on the team and all. Seems that this somehow makes Gasol a renegade Catalan, in these people's eyes.
Gasol doesn't seem to have integrated into American life, and this might be one reason he enjoys playing with Spain so much. He's a middle-class white boy from Sant Boi, and has absolutely no connection, nothing in common with these NBA gangsta dudes. Every once in a while some Spanish reporter will run a story about how unhappy Gasol is in Memphis, a city he and his family (who live there, too, along with him) do not like. La Vangua interviewed his mom during the basketball thing and she said that life there was difficult for her, she didn't like the daily schedule or the food, and it wasn't an attractive place to live.
There was a funny ad on television starring two of these hot commercial properties. The scene is a TV commercial shoot, and a nervous Rafael Nadal is standing straight and still with a tennis ball balanced on his head. A confident Pau Gasol is ten meters away with a basketball in his hand, taking aim--he's going to knock the tennis ball off Nadal's head, it seems. He lets fly and nails Nadal right in the face and Nadal drops like a sack of potatoes as the tennis ball goes flying. The director says, "Pau, you're going to need to do better." Gasol says, "What do you mean? I hit him perfectly." ("Pero sí que le he dado.")