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by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

LINE - White Cover Magazine

Eugenie Bouchard is refreshing. Not really for tennis, because there have been female supernovas in the sport before and there have been beautiful ones, too, like Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic.

But she’s refreshing for Canada.

It’s not just that she’s already the greatest female player in the Great White North’s tennis history. It’s that she’s just so wicked, so composed, so confident, so unapologetic and expecting of her success… she’s do damn un–Canadian.

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Eli Wallach was a familiar face. He was the sort of actor, where you knew who he was if you cared to know who he was. And if you didn’t – if you were too young to know him from his heyday or if you just didn’t give a damn for celebrities or movies in general, but watched enough of them – you still recognized him.

He was unmissable. Can you think of a higher status for an actor to achieve? At the end of my career, I want to be unmissable. Sounds like a decent goal.

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Golfers play their own game. Thieves call it ‘The Long Con’ and good things come to those who wait. Nice guys finish first, eventually. The Tortoise beat the Hare. (Kids, a hare is a rabbit.)

They’re all longer, cliched ways of meaning once thing, and that one thing is the most important thing right now for Willie Desjardins and for the Vancouver Canucks…

Patience.

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It’s always darkest before the dawn. You know what I mean?

Canucks fans, enjoy this moment. Enjoy this month. These are the good times – that instant where everything’s in front of you, like the morning where you wake up on some tropical vacation and aren’t hungover, like when you pay your first toll at the beginning of a long road trip, like when you find a parking spot downtown and realize, “Yes, I do have the change to pay for it, and it’s free after 10 p.m.”

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Italy - World Cup

Italy

World Ranking: 9

Thoughts:

Don’t care about the world ranking – Italy is Italy. What can FIFA tell you that four World Cups can’t?

The Italians like to defend. Well, maybe they hate it. But they’re good at it. And yet, it’s not like they’re some trap defence. The Azzurri (see, I use their nickname so now I sound like an insider) make defence look good, either because their jersey are so tight or because their hair is so long. But they move. They dance. Whenever they pass, I imagine Kenny G hitting the high note on his sax.

Italy sucked a major something four years ago when they were bounced in the knockout group. They made the final at Euro 2012 but were swiftly slapped down by Spain in the final, 4-0. Watching Italy play Spain then was sort of like watching the New York Rangers play the L.A. Kings over the past two weeks – yeah, you know they deserve to be there, but you just feel the sport will be cheated of a worthy champion if they actually win.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Yes. And it was traumatizing.

Mouth-Watering Food:

The entire menu.

The Crystal Ball:

I expect the best. They’ll win Group D, and they’ll advance.

A (Mancrushy) Question:

Andrea Pirlo, can you follow me on Twitter? I’m really cool… like you.

Schedule:

  • vs England: Saturday, June 14 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Costa Rica: Friday, June 20 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Uruguay: Tuesday, June 24 (9:00 a.m. PST)

Greece - World Cup

Greece

World Ranking: 12

Thoughts:

I don’t know how the Greeks always do it. I don’t know why they won’t just lose. I still have no idea how they won the European championship in 2004, spoiling Figo’s only legit chance to win a major tournament, and to do it at home in Lisbon, no less. I can’t understand why they always get such great draws, or how they’re ranked 12th in the world and ahead of storied football nations like the Netherlands and France. (Well, France is only storied if you’re under 25 years old, I guess.)

So, I fully expect to see them escape their group. Which means, right when I finally do, they’ll no doubt lose and infuriate me in a completely new way.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Yeah, but he went to the Greek Islands… ironically, the kind of place you’d definitely need a reservation.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

Olives. What else would it be?

The Crystal Ball:

I’m not taking a risk picking them to move on. So I’ll take them to finish first. Their defence could stifle the very quick Japanese, and that might just be the win they need.

A (Mean) Question:

Will the heat punish the Greeks?

Well, they get along just fine with all that body hair back home. They should be fine down south, too, if anyone is.

Schedule:

  • vs Colombia: Saturday, June 14 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Japan: Thursday, June 19 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Cote d’Ivoire: Tuesday, June 24 (1:00 p.m. PST)
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Australia - World Cup

I often lump Australia and the United States together, and I lump Australians and Americans together.

A statement like that is sure to anger either. Why? Because they say they don’t like each other, but their similarities – pretty much the two keywords in this story’s headline, Loud and Drunk – are their common denominator, and they often slip further into those stereotypes whenever they try to distance themselves from the other.

I’ve been around Australians who were whining about how loud Americans were and, as they whined, they started to talk over each other. They were loud to the point of screaming, and the Portuguese people passing by (I was in Lisbon at the time) could only step slowly and stare. The irony didn’t hit the Aussies.

It doesn’t hit the Americans either, when they flip their hat brims up high or experiment with ecstasy, that they’re partaking on quintessential wanderlusty Australian hobbies.

Okay, this is sounding negative… but I’ve lumped these countries together, here, because I really just don’t have enough to say about either. Well, not about their futbol teams, at least.

Australia

World Ranking: 62

Thoughts:

Some people will tell you the Aussies are even worse than they were in 2010, when they followed up their surprising run in 2006 with something only definable as flaccid. But others will tell you the Socceroos (yes, that’s what they actually call themselves) have enough jump to compete with Spain, Holland, and Chile. (And a country that created the Kangaroo should have enough jump, right? Ha ha. Ha.)

The answer, as always, must be somewhere in between.

The Aussies might not win a game, but they might just go all Croatia on whoever they play and scare them for 20 minutes or so. And that’s all they need to do.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Well, of course.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

The Lot.

The Crystal Ball:

Don’t invest any money. Australia getting out their group would be like a third Bush winning the White House… it’s technically possible, but a whole lotta luck and fortunate will have to align to make it so.

A (Bitter) Question:

Why do you people lie to us and tell us you actually like Vegemite?

I had some once and the last time my face did that I was electrocuted.

Also, just slightly off topic, does Mel Gibson still have an Australian accent?

Schedule:

  • vs Chile: Friday, June 13 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Netherlands: Wednesday, June 18 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Spain: Monday, June 23 (9:00 a.m. PST)

USA - World Cup

The United States

World Ranking: 13

Thoughts:

Shoot me, fellow Canadians, but I really like this team and I wish them the best. Unfortunately, I also really like Portugal – they dance with the ball, whereas the Americans dance with the ball in the way Jason Biggs’ characters pick up women. And I can’t see Germany losing too early here. And I also think Ghana’s gonna have something to say about their own fate.

Truth be told, in Group G, I think the Portuguese are the safest. Something tells me they’ll re-channel Vasco de Gama and conquer Brazil’s pitch like they conquered, well, Brazil.

I think the Germans will stutter out of the gate. I think the Americans could draw all three of their games. Unfortunately, that won’t be enough to escape the basement of the tournament’s true Group of Death.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

N/A. (Yes.)

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

I went with the Lot burger above. So I’ll go with a real American burger here. And you know what? I’ll add one of those Hawaiian burgers with the pineapple and teriyaki sauce between the buns… yeah, that’s the stuff.

The Crystal Ball:

Third in Group G.

FIFA, will you ever give the United States a fair chance at the final rounds?

Schedule:

  • vs Ghana: Monday, June 16 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Portugal: Sunday, June 22 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Germany: Thursday, June 26 (9:00 p.m. PST)

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Africa - World Cup

Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria

World Rankings: Cameroon (56), Cote d’Ivoire (23), Nigeria (44), Ghana (37), Algeria (22)

Thoughts:

Don’t pay attention to those rankings up there, that ugly 56 or the 44 next to Nigeria. African nations rarely get the benefit of the rankings, nor do they need it. If a country like Cameroon or Algeria’s gonna advance, it’s gonna be all emotion anyway.

(Egypt also sits 36th in the world and they didn’t get in. Denmark ranks 22nd, and they didn’t, either.)

Truth is, Ghana’s the team everyone’s watching – both because they were the only African team to advance meaningfully in 2010, when the tournament was held in South Africa, and because they have quite easily the coolest damn uniforms in the tournament. The rest of the teams above are gonna wear shirts you could imagine finding in a K-Mart bin.

Apart from that, Cameroon has to Plinko its way into the top two in a group with Brazil, Croatia, and Mexico – it’s one the more wide-open groups in this year’s World Cup, which means the 56th-ranked team in the world has a decent shot to advance, as long as Mexico bubbles up from the inside like they have since the Olympics, and as long as Croatia… well, let’s just say it’s possible.

The 44th-ranked Nigerians also have a hope in a group weighted by Argentina but buoyed by Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iran.

Ghana has the toughest group, in G, but with bipolar opponents like the United States and Portugal – not to mention the pale Germans, who are going to be telling themselves the South American heat’s not bothering them in the same way the rest of us tell ourselves we’re fine after our 13th beer – every fan form Lisbon to L.A. should be afraid of the Black Stars. (I’m not being offensive… Ghana’s team name is actually ‘the Black Stars’.)

But it’s hard to tell. Portugal just blasted Ireland 5-1 in a friendly this week, while Ghana jettisoned South Korea 4-0 in Miami on Monday. But those were friendlies… do they matter at all?

Ask the Blue Jays how their phenomenal preseasons have helped them.

As for the Ivory Coast – the English way of saying Cote d’Ivoire, sort of like how we call Perrier ‘Club Soda’ – they’re definitely the team you’re familiar with, you casual fan, you.

Didier Drogba’s still kicking, which is good news for the Ivory Coast. Then again, that’s also terrible news – while Drogba was a force in the Champions League in 2012, for Chelsea, the game moves quickly and it’s definitely passed him along.

That’s not to say the Coast can’t come out of their group, and they definitely shouldn’t dwell on their 2010 loss when they were fatally stuck in a group with Portugal, the United States, and Brazil, but this is an older team that weren’t as good as they could have been when they should have been, and they haven’t gotten any better.

Then again, they drew Colombia, Greece, and Japan this time around… so who knows.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

How far back should I go? In three seasons of Parts Unknown, he’s been to the Congo, South Africa, Morocco, and Libya. It’s almost like he purposely avoided everywhere I have to talk about today.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

Mangoes.

Crystal Ball:

The Gerias – Al and Ni – are the only ones I *could* see advancing, but it’s not in their control. If Russia plays well, Algeria’s gone. If Bosnia plays well, Nigeria’s gone.

A (Coherent) Question:

Don’t have one. Nothing here tickles my curiosity.

Schedule:

  • vs Mexico: Friday, June 13 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Croatia: Wednesday, June 18 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Brazil: Monday, June 23 (1:00 p.m. PST)

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Croatia - World Cup

Croatia

World Ranking: 18

Thoughts:

Well, we hear it’s, like, the next place to travel. So if you find Rio too dangerous but you still need some slimy seafood and coastline to clean your teeth with, invest in the Dalmatian Coast.

They have either the best jerseys in the World Cup or the worst, depending on how stiff your upper lip is.

Croatia reminds me of the wild card challengers in years’ past – I’m thinking Turkey in 2002 or Russia in the 2008 Euros, where those teams just pushed the ball forward and played soccer’s equivalent of American football’s West Coast Offence, and bobbed and weaved their way to the last two games of the tournament.

Croatia’s good enough to not hurt themselves. And, um… that’s basically all I have to say about that.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Yup.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

Croatian Wallnut Roll.

Crystal Ball:

They won’t make it out of Group A. Sorry, guys. But save me some sardines! I’m on my way to Dubrovnik.

A (Confused) Question:

There’s a lot of worry about how the European teams will fare in South America, or anywhere below the equator… but does Croatia count? Their winters aren’t as frosty as Germany’s, England’s, France’s, or even Spain’s. I’ve only met a few Croatians, but I don’t remember them sweating very much. (This is the point where someone normally stops me.)

Schedule:

  • vs Brazil: Thursday, June 12 (1:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Cameroon: Wednesday, June 18 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Mexico: Monday, June 21 (1:00 p.m. PST)

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Mexico - World Cup

Mexico

World Ranking: 20

Thoughts:

When have you last heard anything good about Mexico?

Does your family still want to vacation there? If you’re a kid, like 12 to 15 years old, will your parents even let you leave the resort?

A country so startlingly beautiful has been torn apart by drugs and the war surrounding them – Mexico is what we think Colombia is, and Colombia is what we think Mexico was.

This has little to do with football, but it is leading me somewhere… basically, Mexico is the most forgotten footballing nation in the ‘Central’ American world, probably because it’s kind of a part of the North American world. When we think of the South American countries destined to thrive under their own sun in Brazil, we think of Argentina and Uruguay and Colombia and Chile… but why won’t we think of Mexico?

They’re good enough to advance, at least they were in South Africa. They were good enough at the Olympics two years ago, and against decent competition. How much has changed? (A lot, actually.) Do we really know?

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Many times.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

Real Salsa.

Crystal Ball:

They’ll advance, in second place. That would give them a first-round matchup with Spain, a uni-lingual battle that could provide this World Cup with its first and most memorable upset. Of course, there’s a good chance the Mexican’s dysfunctional lead-up to Rio could cause them to go all France on each other, which would give Spain a free pass against Croatia or Cameroon instead.

A (Shallow) Question:

Who thought these trashy jerseys were a good idea? Can’t you already picture those rags in some Training Day-esque movie to be released in 2023? They look like the fake jerseys your aunts and uncles buy you from Target. They’re the kinds of shirts that are always a size too big, no matter how small you buy them.

*Also, how in pain does head coach Miguel Herrera look in this selfie?

Schedule:

  • vs Cameroon: Friday, June 13 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Brazil: Tuesday, June 17 (12:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Croatia: Monday, June 23 (1:00 p.m. PST)
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Brazil - World Cup

Brazil

World Ranking: 3

Thoughts:

You’ve heard of them. You know they’ve won five World Cups. You know about Pele but you’re not sure why he’s still talking. You remember Ronaldo, and for a syllable more you remember Ronaldinho. You were aware of Kaka when he was a thing, and you laughed because it made you think of poop. And you know Neymar now, although you’re not sure how to ask your barber for that haircut. You also know, no matter what the pundits say, that Brazil will always be a threat to win any footballing tournament, whether it’s in Brazil or whether it’s not. But it is in Brazil, this time.

Don’t expect them to be gracious hosts. Don’t expect them to take mercy on their opponents, any more than you’d expect them to take mercy on themselves.

*NOTE: If Brazil tops their group, they’ll get one of the Netherlands, Spain, or Chile in their first elimination game. The hosts may have a layup of a group, but they’re not rewarded for it once they’re out of it.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Yes.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

Feijoada.

Crystal Ball:

Semifinal? That seems fair, right?

How boring would it be to pick them as the winner?

I’m resisting. I’m peacefully resisting.

A (Silly) Question:

Can they sue Australia for style thievery?

Schedule:

  • vs Croatia: Thursday, June 12 (1:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Mexico: Tuesday, June 17 (12:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Cameroon: Monday, June 23 (1:00 p.m. PST)

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