What of the political discord between the neighboring countries? “That is for the bureaucrats.”
“You should see my kids,” Issam continued. At his home in La Capelette, a neighborhood in the tenth arrondissement, one child had been wearing face paint in the colors of the French flag, the other face paint in the colors of the Moroccan flag. “It’s 50-50,” he said with a smile. “For French-Moroccans we will win no matter what.”
Rather than height or leaping ability, Curry creates spatial advantages by simply shooting from farther away than ever before. To prevent taller defenders from closing the distance, he speeds up his shot and increases the arc without losing efficiency, simulating the play of someone much bigger and bouncier than himself. He has collected an arsenal of different shooting forms: going left or right, backward or forward, shooting over or underneath defenders, off one leg or two, spotting up or off the dribble. It only works because of the dexterity and control of his fingertips, providing airtight ball handling abilities and freakish accuracy.
Something rekindled; baseball seemed all of a sudden a dramatic sport, filled with intellectual intrigue: the chess-like plots of the pitcher-batter duels, the way individual specializations harmonized with collective effort. I became the wearer of a White Sox hat, the austere black and white a sort of neighborhood camouflage, and then also an Astros hat, a commemoration of my years lived in Houston, the US’s most interesting and comfortless city. There was no better way to close out my day than by traveling to the Reddit thread with all the baseball streams. Or so it seemed until I watched Craig Kimbrel pitch and grew worried that what everyone else thought might in fact be true.
Every two years, when the Olympic institution plants its flag in a new city, speculators from metropolitan Lausanne meet with profiteers in the new athletic colony. They hover over the city map with carving knives, repurposing public spaces and re-zoning residences. Together, for the sake of a two-week event, they take over the territory, line their pockets with public resources, bring in outside workers, and push long-established locals aside.
“Interesting read,” was Kobe’s verdict. “#MuseOn.”
Over the course of several meetings in 2017 and 2018, I taught Kobe and his crew a smattering of ancient history. I had known about him for many years—since he first came to the Lakers. Among my earliest memories of shame comes from his first or second season: I thought that since his team-mate Shaquille O’Neill was clearly somehow Irish, Kobe, too, must be Irish, and so I referred to him (in front of friends, and friends’ parents) as Kobe O’Bryant. I was maybe 8; the memory still stings.
Uruguay vs. Portugal brought us, mercifully, to the point where Ronaldo was also gone. Nothing against either of them, but their presence is such that even having one of them involved means the epic Messi–Ronaldo debate eats up all the air time and “analysis.” Men who know nothing pontificate. Good and evil are spoken of in utter seriousness. 7 percent of the internet is devoted to this debate, so let me take a moment to end it. They are both utterly amazing! And brace yourselves: they are equally amazing, and they are differently amazing. I don’t know why this is so hard for people to accept. There is no way, in a team sport, to bring the issue to further clarity, so I recommend everyone drops this line of debate. Please, take the fact that the universe put them out in the same round as a sign.
Sweden play their home games just outside of Stockholm at the Friends Arena, perhaps the only stadium in the world named after an anti-bullying charity. The big question that faced the Swedish team up until the World Cup was whether they would bring Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the World Cup. Ibrahimovic, perhaps Sweden’s greatest ever player, retired from international soccer in 2016, but he had been hinting that he would be willing to return. However there were some concerns about bringing back a player with knee ligaments that could snap at any moment, and so arrogant that when teammates play well he attributes it to the benefits of watching him in practice. He will not be on the plane to Russia.
LeBron James, possessed of perhaps the most expressive face in any sport, bears the imprint of existential weariness, of having to prove himself once more on behalf of an obscure rationale somehow held in common to fans and players alike, one he has clearly internalized.