The World What???

by Bob Sparrow

This past weekend started the biggest sporting event in the world, and you very well might not have even had an inkling that it was even taking place. No, you didn’t miss the World Series, the Super Bowl or March Madness, you missed the start of the World Cup. It usually doesn’t get much play here in the U.S. and it particularly won’t this year as the U.S. didn’t even qualify for the tournament, which seems almost impossible given that countries like Morocco, Iran, Croatia, Serbia and Senegal did make the top 32 teams in the world.  A good analogy might be as a kid, this would be worse that being the last guy picked on some pick-up ball game in the neighborhood, it’s like being sent home to practice the piano while the rest of the neighborhood played the game.

So, why are we so bad? Possibly we have a hard time getting grown men to run around on a big field for several hours hitting the ball with their feet and heads all resulting in a score of 1-0. But the rest of the world loves football, what we call soccer, so one wonders, ‘what are we missing?’.  World Cup history is filled with stories of fights and even deaths over a team winning or losing a World Cup match. World Cup fans make the Oakland Raider faithful look like they are attending a Shirley Temple birthday party.

Victoria Beckham. Not really interested in what David looks like!

I’m a bit conflicted on this year’s World Cup. Again, I’m not a big fan of soccer, sorry I still can’t call it football, but I haven’t really taken the time to understand the nuances of the game. For me it’s a bit like hockey, where at least I know most of the rules of the game, but none of the intricacies or strategies, and even though there is not typically a lot of scoring, I’ve grown to like hockey. So maybe there is hope this year for me to enjoy the world’s most-watched sporting event along with the estimated 3 billion fans that are expected to watch the tournament this year.

If you’re like me and a) weren’t aware that the World Cup was even going on, and b) do not really understand or care to understand the nuances of the game, and c) aren’t exactly sure what ‘Bend ’em like Beckham’ means, but you’d recognize Victoria Beckham in a Groucho Marx disguise, then perhaps you’ll enjoy some things I learned over the weekend from my local newspaper and the Internet regarding this year’s World Cup that may pique your interest . . . or not. Just think of it as focusing on lady’s hats and mint juleps instead of the horses at the Kentucky Derby.

This year’s World Cup, in Moscow, started last Thursday and continues until the finals on July 15! Yes, a nearly month-long tournament. Since Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the host, it might be important to know some of the history of the host countries. The host gets to pick a lamb for their first opponent – already Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 (yes, they qualified for the World Cup!) on Thursday in the opening round. In 1934 Mussolini’s Italy, which didn’t have a particularly great team, magically won the tournament!! Same thing happen in the ‘70s when a post-Juan Peron’s military junta insured that a less than stellar Argentina team won it all in 1978. So don’t be surprised if a below-average Russian team does something spectacular.

Still don’t care?  OK, here’s some World Cup trivia that you’ll need to know if you want to pretend that you’re the least bit interested in the biggest sporting event in the world:

  • The World Cup tournament started in 1930 and has been played every four years except 1942 and 1946 due to that skirmish going on in the world at the time.
  • Brazil’s team is the most expensive team in this year’s tournament with a worth of approximately $1 billion!
  • Average age of the top players in the tournament – 24
  • 66,000 Iceland fans (yes, Iceland made the tournament too!) wanted tickets to the games in Moscow meaning that 20% of the population of that country wanted to go to Russia to watch the games.
  • Next World Cup is in 2022 in Qatar – yes, they have a team too!
  • If you can catch NBC Latino tv/radio, after a goal you’ll be entertained by renowned soccer announcer, Andres Cantor’s when he calls out his famous Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaal!

Andres Cantor

You’ve already missed the Egypt-Uruguay thriller (yes, they both have teams in the tournament), but check your local listing for Tuesday’s game between Nigeria (Really! They’re in it and we’re not?!) and Argentina, the over-under on total points is 1.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

 

 

Treasures in the Desert

by Bob Sparrow

ironwood 2My formal introduction to the ‘treasures of the desert’ probably took place in the early 70s, when brother, Jack took a job as restaurant manager at Ironwood Country Club in Palm Desert and he invited me out for a weekend. I believe it was in March and I was teaching school in southern California at the time; I remember thinking as I made the drive to Palm Desert just how close the desert really was – only about an hour and half drive and yet, I was to find out, a world apart. And while the weather was certainly nice in Orange County in March, it was amazing in Palm Desert, especially the nights. I remember sitting out on a beautifully clear evening with a billion stars all around, wondering how long this had been going on – apparently for quite some time.

painter's pallet

‘Painter’s Palette’ Death Valley

My love and fascination with the desert and its flora and fauna has continued to this day. I was amazed at the colors and the shear beauty of the desert on my first visit to Death Valley where I was also intrigued with ‘desert stories’ like that of ‘Scotty’s Castle’. My two treks through Joshua Tree National Park introduced me to unique rock formations, eerie hidden caves and spectacular views. My hike through Havasupai introduced me to the extraordinary water features in what was seemingly a dry, desolate desert. I recently visited the Desert Museum in Tucson with niece, Shelley Watson and continued to be amazed at all the beauty and life that exists in the Arizona-Sonora desert. The Raptor Show, featuring Ravens, Great Horned Owls and Falcons was remarkable!

Aside from the ‘family treasures’ in the desert, such as my sister, Suzanne living in Scottsdale and my sister-in-law, Starlet in Apache Junction, there’s a small oasis about three-and-a-half hours from home that calls to Linda a couple of times each year; you might know the place . . . Las Vegas. Linda has not met a Top Dollar slot machine that she doesn’t think she can hit the ‘big one’ on, so for her birthday each year, I ‘surprise’ her with a trip to visit our money. This year we did manage to salvage a little education out of the trip with an excursion to Hoover Dam, the building of which was amazing.

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Primm, Nevada

With all the hikes, excursions, timeshare in Palm Desert and trips to Vegas, you’d think I’d have my fill of the desert, but no, there is yet another pilgrimage that we make each year and from which I have just returned – Primm.

Primm, or what used to be called Stateline, is on the California-Nevada border, and at first passing you wonder why anyone would stop there with Vegas just 30 minutes away. The answer is Primm’s two 18-hole golf courses, which have a unique history of their own. Famous golf course designer, Tom Fazio, was contracted by Steve Wynn to design the golf course at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, under the condition that he would not design another golf course in the state of Nevada. Thus, the two magnificent courses he designed at Primm are just over the border in California.

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South Point Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV

A group of 12 couples from Yorba Linda Country Club have been going to Primm on ‘Derby Weekend’ since 1996. The outing was originally put together by Debbie Osborne, who with husband Russ, still attend, along with two other original members, John & Judy VanBoxmeer and Don & Marilyn Spradling, who made the trip this year from their home in Fresno. Linda and I have been lucky enough to have been part of this ‘gang that couldn’t shoot straight’ for the last 12 years

equestrian center

Rodeo at South Point Equestrian Center

A small wrinkle in the Primm trip this year was, for the first time, we didn’t stay in Primm. While the golf courses are top quality, the Primm Resort & Casino would be lucky to get the tip of one star in a five-star rating. So, one of this year’s organizers, Chuck Sager, who has ‘connections’ at South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, suggested a change of venue. The South Point Hotel is very unique among Las Vegas hotels – it has 124 bowling lanes as well as horse stables and a full equestrian center, where, last weekend, many of us witnessed our first rodeo. It is truly an amazing place.  Thank you Chuck!  We also changed golf courses to Rhodes Ranch, another ‘treasure in the desert’.

derby

Sometimes a ‘winner’ is a ‘loser’

A tradition at this gathering is a large bet on the Kentucky Derby. We have two legitimate ‘pony players’ in the group, Jack Budd and Russ Osborne, so everyone gives them $105 and they make some sort of boxed, parlay, quinella bet to heighten our interest in watching ‘The Derby’. We actually won about $24,000 in 2011, of course it was split amongst 24 people, but still, it was a lot more fun than losing, or winning the way we did this year. Jack & Russ actually picked the top 4 finishers, but because they were mostly favorites, our $105 bet got us a $30 return, so ‘winning’ produced a $75 loss. But it was exciting for a moment, before we realized that winning was actually losing – more mysteries of the desert!

Whether I’m hiking, exploring, golfing or just losing money, the desert continues to lure me to its hidden treasures.