Field Theory by Hadyn Green

12

World Cup of Evil

I'm not sure what theme FIFA was hoping to emphasise at the is world cup, I'll bet good money that it wasn't "villainy". 

Almost as soon as the knock-out stages started the bad guys started their evil works. Perhaps even before then.

Obviously FIFA itself is evil, like the worldwide sporting branch of SMERSH, but that usually doesn't translate directly onto the field. With this in mind, I offer you: The World Cup of Evil!

Making my life easier, I'm going to start with the round of 16. This means I don't get to include Cristiano Ronaldo. So before I kick off (see what I did there?) I'd like to make a quick mention of the Portuguese striker.

From what I understand, the English really don't like Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA's player of the year. But they seem to not like him in the same way they don't like huge binging nights out drinking. They publically scorn him, then chuckle quietly remembering all the cool things he does.

His main issue seems to be diving, which he does at a rate that looks similar to other players. (Portugal in general has a similar time taken per "fake injury" as England in the graph below that I made from WSJ data). 

Let's be honest, it's probably this though.

Round of 16

Chile v Brazil - Winner: BRAZIL

While I don't particularly think the Brazilians are evil, the Chileans are just so damn nice!

Colombia v Uruguay - Winner: URUGUAY

Yeah he wasn't playing, but Uruguay has a guy who bit another guy! Then they complained that FIFA didn't let him play any more, suggesting instead to just wheel him on the field like this.

France v Nigeria - Winner: DRAW (France on penalities)

No ones really complaining much about these teams so France wins a scoreless draw because they take so much time when they draw penalties.

Germany v Algeria - Winner: GERMANY

It was once said "Nobody who speaks German could be evil" and I'd like to believe that. But the Algerian goalkeeper was just so damn cool, that I can't let them keep going in the evil tournament.

Netherlands v Mexico - Winner: NETHERLANDS

Robben, admits diving in the game against Mexico, then says: "In recent days there has been a lot of talk about diving and actually I’m tired of this bullshit." I don't think that's how it works after you admit something. "I'm really tired of every talking about me shooting someone after I admitted I shot someone."

Greece v Costa Rica - Winner: GREECE

Austerity measures reach sport as the Greek team constantly plays for 0-0 draws.

Argentina v Switzerland and USA v Belgium - Winner?

(I can't see too much anger aimed at these teams so I'm just going to flat out ignore this whole arm of the bracket and assume the USA makes it to the semifinals simply for teasing a whole lot of fans who otherwise couldn't care less about football.)

Quarterfinals

Brazil v Uruguay - Winner: URUGUAY

So not only did Suarez bite the Italian guy, he's bitten a bunch of other people and may be racist. No matter how silly Neymar and friends act, they have yet to place part of another person in their mouths with intent to injure. And even after he bites the Italian, Suarez falls to the ground holding his mouth seemingly to claim he had been fouled.

...

You know what, let's just skip to:

The Final

A packed stadium holds it breath in anticipation for:

Uruguay v Netherlands

The Netherlands play the entire game while lying on the ground should an Uruguayan player near them. While left alone though, the Dutch play with pure skill and excitement, causing fans to truly believe that this is a good team and not, as it turns out, terrible, awful people.

In the meantime Uruguay, continually annoyed at giving away penalties to the Dutch, continue their simple game plan of "get the ball to Suarez" (as this is the evil World Cup, he hasn't been banned, but will instead win the Golden Boot.) Should Suarez be sent off, the Uruguayan team will pack a collective sad, but he won't be today.

Instead he launches face first at Robben during a corner, jaws open wide. Sadly he misses completely, causing Robben to fall and be awarded a free kick.

...

All fiction aside though, it's quite odd watching these games and watching so many of the players diving. Especially when you see that players, like Neymar, actually getting quite badly injured. I get the fall down if you're tripped thing, because maybe the ref doesn't see it, but to then writhe as though your body is aflame, is so bizarre. 

Full disclosure: I'm doing very poorly in my tipping pool.

21

It has started

I really am quite bad at this. I figured that the World Cup would start Friday night because I don’t understand how time works. FIFA went and opened the largest sporting event of the year on a Thursday, clearly undeterred by the possibility of low attendance.

Still arriving at work to see the game stream live on TVNZ (despite pretty crap quality) was a blessing. The fact that the game was fun to watch was also fantastic. The Croatian keeper was making some great saves, right up until the point where he decided to stop doing that.

The new spray paint from the referee was kind of cool, and I personally cannot wait until one of them accidentally draws a penis. Speaking of the ref, I missed the penalty, but some grumpy folks on twitter called bullshit, and that FIFA had “talked” to the ref.

And then the Croatian coach threw his toys about a game that they were going to lose in any case.

Croatia manager Niko Kovac on the match: 'We better give it up now and go home. We talk about respect, Croatia didn't get any."

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 12, 2014

Frankly I’m just glad the stadium was finished.

---

I was planning to talk about all the wonderful adverts you get before the World Cup.

Like this my favourite one from Nike:

And Beats by Dre try to capture the essence of the pre-game ritual:

Adidas on the other hand seem to think that this is entertaining:

Or that adding a bit of Kanye West will make it edgy:

McDonalds at least seems to understand that when the World Cup is in Brazil that we want to see some flair:

I’m mainly surprised no one didn’t just flat out recreate these ads from the 90s

Oh those were the days, when football teams could run unfettered through minimal airport security.

15

Call it what you will

The World Cup starts on Friday and we are all so very eager to see it, then see it end.

As is always the case with large, four-yearly sporting events, there are two parts. Obviously there is the wonderful spectacle of the sport which we stay up late with a cup of Milo to watch. And then there's the heart-breaking waste of resources and potential abuses of human decency that is the running of the thing.

John Oliver has done himself proud explaining the “sausage principle” of it here:

FIFA is a maggot-riddled piece of filth, in my humble estimation. A group that is in charge of something known as the “beautiful game” that have a vested interest in keeping up that appearance, while all the time raking in as much money as they can. (See also: IOC)

With my disgust noted, I am still actually pretty keen on the World Cup. Here is a chart of my excitement levels (x) over time (t):

The first big dip you see is the first time someone takes a dive. That second dip is when after the millionth dive or hand ball or whatever, I am told to my face that “this is how the game works” or “rugby’s worse for cheating” or some other crap to try and smooth over what essentially a pretty broken part of the game.

And yet, I’ll be there, Milo in hand, watching the games hoping Germany wins (cause fuck, why not?).

---

Now because this is me, you possibly think I’ll do some stupid thing where I look at and rank the uniforms. HAHAHA! No. Instead I’m going to point you at Nate Silver’s wonderful sabermetricising of soccer and its associated interactive chart. The tl;dr is Brazil wins and is paying $3.50 at the T.A.B. if you’re curious.

I read Moneyball recently (and recommend it strongly to anyone who likes professional sports) and as I did my mind wondered what other sports you could do this to. Cricket was top of my list, followed by football… IF you can get the data, and I’m not wholly convinced you can. Moreover, “moneyballing” predictions (and predictions in general) get incredibly iffy when it comes to knock-out tournaments (see: All Blacks 1991-2007).

---

So where will you be watching this spectacle? Probably on TVNZ or the internet, because, like me, you’ve realised that Sky Sport is a rort and that FIFA don’t really need any more money.

But will they call it football or soccer? The NZ Herald seems to think you give a shit about this. And if you are one of those grumpy motherfuckers with British accents at the pub wearing a Phoenix jersey and trying to elbow me out of the way while I’m waiting to be served, then you probably do.

In fact it doesn’t really matter. Like aluminum/aluminium the words are mired in creations and Anglo-American tensions from before anyone currently alive ever existed and frankly by this stage every knows what they both mean, so feel free to use them interchangeably… or use soccer when you feel like trolling your friends who insist on football.

---

I'm sure I'll be less cynical when the games actually start, let me consult my chart...

23

Drinking & Insomnia & the Winter Olympics

I consider these Winter Olympics to be a success. Not in the way that the athletes, the IOC or, for some reason, the organisers might think. Instead I deem the success to be that I actually got to see some of the goddamn events this time around.

It was 2am, and I had been lying wide awake for what seemed like an hour already. I decided to get up and play some video games (because visual stimulation from brightly coloured blinking electronics is bound to make me sleepy). As it turns out, deep in the middle of the night was when Prime TV showed the winter Olympics, live and free to air.

On screen was Skeleton, one of my favourite events. Sliders - which is not just a type of small hamburger - reach speeds of roughly 130kph, while blasting downhill on what is basically a high-tech version of a purloined real estate sign. I don't feel safe driving in a car at 130kph, let alone with my face inches from the road, as sliders do on their way down the course.

As a bonus, New Zealander Ben Sanford was in action (he ended up in 20th, between Austria's Raphael Maier and America's Kyle Tress). But who cares about placing, his moko-inspired helmet and uniform was easily one of the coolest there, and there were a few to choose from.

Next night at 4am, the insomnia is back. I decide to see what's on at Sochi. Oh, only the USA vs Russia in ice hockey.

Ice hockey, I'm told, looks much faster in real life. I'm not sure how. On my large HDTV I was only just able to track the puck and the changes of direction in play were astonihsingly fast, not to mention the shots and (usually) saves. I still have no idea what is going on at most times, but damn it's a fun sport to watch. 

I could only watch two periods of play before I finally fell asleep. The Russians would go on to lose in any case (far more entertaining was the bronze medal match between the US and Finland: Suomi voitti).

I thought my Olympic viewing was over as I regained the ability to sleep through the night. But I managed to catch the four man bobsled while having drinks at the pub, another favourite of mine. (The event not the pub).

As I watched, a crew from (I believe) Canada crashed. When you are travelling well about 100kph the last thing you want to do is to suddenly flip on your side and slide along on your head with the wight of a four man bobsled on your neck.

This last weekend, after a productive morning tearing down a fence, my partner and I watched the figure skating gala. It's awesome; so, so awesome. The comedy mixed with grace and agility is amazing then you realsie they're doing it on skates, usually backwards.

Which brings me to the sound recording. You may already have listened to it, if so I apologise. My friend Dom and I were waiting to watch the Chiefs play the Crusaders (and as it turns out, beat them, which was nice). We were watching snowboarding highlights and had been drinking, when we began discussing whether snowboarding, slope style and other "judged" sports should be in the Olympics. That's when I thought: "Hey, if I record this then I don't have to write it down!" You join us as we discuss whether the Winter Olympics is "any good".

Enjoy (unless it's terrible, then I'm sorry).

6

Scary Stories

As a writer I love a good challenge, especially if it’s short and easily conquered (because as a non-Man Booker-winning writer I am also lazy). So a few months ago I was intrigued by this widely shared Reddit thread: What is the best horror story you can come up with in two sentences.

This was the top story:

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”

You may be of a different opinion to me (i.e. wrong), but I don’t find this scary at all. I much prefer this one:

My sister says that mommy killed her. Mommy says that I don't have a sister.

This one needed better construction but is pretty great:

The doctors told the amputee he might experience a phantom limb from time to time. Nobody prepared him for the moments though, when he felt cold fingers brush across his phantom hand.

And this one:

Don't be scared of the monsters, just look for them. Look to your left, to your right, under your bed, behind your dresser, in your closet but never look up, she hates being seen.

But because it’s Reddit, sometimes the responses are better than the stories:

“It's been watching me for hours now... Sometimes I catch glimpses of its reflexion on the computer screen, but I dare not turn around...”

“You could at least stop masturbating.”

Reading down through the stories a few elements become noticeable. Women, children, darkness, sleep. Most of the stories seem to revolve around hearing or feeling something strange near you just before falling asleep or rousing you from sleep. Creepy children and creepy women are often the cause of the noises or the ones who are dead (see the “sister” and “monster” story above).

I find it interesting that the fears haven’t changed much since the days of Poe and Lovecraft. Simple stories of things that are visible just out of the corner of your eye and that you only hear because it’s quiet at night, and they mostly come at night… mostly.

How do you break these memes? How do you make something scary in broad daylight? Stephen King, one of the best short story writers ever, is a master of altering the setting and making you scared of anything. Derry’s killer clown is often seen in sunlight. Cujo is a wonderfully gruesome story on a hot day in a car. The Moving Finger is a story about a very weird monster, but is really just about a guy who can’t go to the bathroom around other people.

Recently it seems as if we have turned away from traditional monsters to scare us as well. No one sits down with the Devil anymore. Vampires, werewolves and even Frankenstein are action heroes, not midnight terrors.

We also don’t fear animals or nature. There are no wolves at our door. No spiders crawling over our faces while we sleep, laying eggs in our ears, screaming as thousands of baby spiders pour through our sinuses and eating our eyes from the inside out. I couldn’t get that idea out of my head the other night when I noticed a big white-tailed spider on my bedroom ceiling the other night.

Mediums for horror are increasing though. A few months back friends of mine who are also game writers discussed making horror games. There are some great games out there to scare the hell out of you (Slender Game comes to mind). But we were talking cooperative games, ones that would intentionally split your party, cut off your friend’s voice from communications and then introduce an AI character pretending to be your friend. A videogame version of The Thing.

YouTube and Vimeo have a wonderful trove of short horror films (bringing that genre back from the dead… so to speak).

One Last Dive from jasoneisener on Vimeo.

And if you’ll indulge me, the horror film I co-wrote (and won awards for):

So enjoy this haunted time of the year, think of all of the things that terrify you. Listen to some spooky tunes and watch a movie that will have you wide awake in the middle of the night.

Because it’s All Hallows Eve when the dead walk the earth and darkness falls across the land. When creatures crawl in search of blood to terrorize y'all's neighbourhood. And whosoever shall be found, without the soul for getting down, must stand and face the hounds of hell and rot inside a corpse's shell … and though you fight to stay alive your body starts to shiver, for no mere mortal can resist, the evil of the thriller.