Life imitates sport

I’ve not had much time for blogging recently, because, among other distractions, I’ve been spending my evenings drinking beer and watching the football on TV.

I had been hoping that last night’s match between Greece and Germany would provide me with a handy metaphor for a post on how the downtrodden masses can, through organisation and unity, overcome seemingly impossible odds, but sadly the cold efficiency of the Germans saw them run out comfortable winners.

Things are looking a little more hopeful on the political field though. The left may not have won in last week’s rerun election in Greece, but it appears they have done well enough to force Angela Merkel to accept some softening of the austerity programme imposed on the country.

On current form it looks like the Germans might end up facing Spain in the final; perhaps Iberian flair will make that match a better symbol for the future course of European protest.

Euro predictions

Since my last attempt at predicting the outcome of a major football tournament turned out rather poorly, I decided to wait until the first round of matches in Euro 2012 was complete before hazarding any forecast. I’m sure that Spain will pick up after their slow start, the Ukrainians and the Russians are looking useful, and even England seem to be less woeful than we had been led to believe, but I’m going to play it safe and tip Germany for the title.

In other European news, the Spanish banks have been bailed out, which may or may not be enough to stabilize the Eurozone, at least temporarily. All eyes are on Greece though, which returns to the polls this weekend after the last election failed to produce a clear winner. If the electorate hold their nerve, and vote for the anti-austerity left, then the whole future of European economic policy will be up in the air. What will happen next is a lot harder to predict than a game of football, but again it’s safe to say that the Germans will have a major influence on the outcome.

Downhill Racer

It’s kept on snowing over the last couple of weeks, so I thought I should follow through on my plans to go skiing. I still couldn’t summon the energy to go up to the actual mountains though, so I figured I should see what Second Life had to offer in the way of winter sports. I got myself kitted out at the Zagoskin Ski Shop, for a surprisingly modest sum – skis, boots, poles, ski-suit and goggles for under L$500 – then headed over to the Nakiska Ski Club to hit the piste:

The panorama was certainly impressive, and the run ahead was invitingly steep, so I pushed off and shot away down the slope:

Down at the bottom there was a futuristic mountain train waiting to take me back up the hill:

It was fun for a while, but after a few runs it began to get a little dull. The AO that came with the skis allows one to steer from side to side, but one can’t really do anything more complicated than zig-zaging down the slope. I guess it might be more exciting if there was a slalom course laid out, or if one was racing with someone else. I should probably check out some of the other Second Life ski resorts to see if they are any more thrilling.

The experience reminded me of nothing more than the classic ZX Spectrum game Horace Goes Skiing. I’ve been similarly underwhelmed by other interactive activities on the grid – nice graphics in the service of eight-bit gameplay seems to be the rule for such things.

I was also a little disappointed, though not entirely surprised, to find that I was the only person at the resort, since I always feel that the conviviality of the après-ski is a crucial part of any winter holiday. It’s a shame it was so quiet, because the one big advantage that Second Life has over stand-alone simulations, the thing that makes up for all the limitations, is its social aspect. Maybe next time I go it will be a bit more lively.

World Cup predictions revisited

Well now I’m back I guess I should catch up with what’s been going on…

Let’s see, what were my tips for the World Cup again?

  1. Brazil
  2. Germany
  3. Argentina
  4. Italy

And what was the result?

  1. Spain
  2. Netherlands
  3. Germany
  4. Uruguay

I should perhaps cross “professional sports gambler” off my list of alternative careers. I’ll admit that I was too quick to dismiss Spain’s chances after their opening defeat, but in my defence I’ll point out that no side had previously won the cup after losing their first game, and that Spain have a history of underperforming in big tournaments (apart of course from the last European Championship). I still can’t quite believe that Holland beat Brazil, and I suspect that the Brazilians feel likewise. At least I spotted that the Germans would do well.

Still, if football was predictable it wouldn’t be half as much fun to follow. It’s interesting that in the US high-scoring games, where the better teams almost always win, are popular, while most of the rest of the world favours low-scoring football, where the plucky underdog is always in with a chance (in one-off games at least; the cream does usually rise to the top over the course of a league season). I suppose that this reflects American political hegemony, and an underlying cultural preference for the maintenance of predictable power relations. Or maybe US sports fans are just too sensible to waste their time watching dull 90-minute 0-0 draws.

World Cup predictions

I know it’s cheating to make predictions after the tournament has started, and I’ll admit that if I had written this last week I would probably have tipped Spain a bit more strongly, but here’s my forecast anyhow:

  1. Brazil
  2. Germany
  3. Argentina
  4. Italy

I’m not really going out on a limb I guess, but class tends to come good at this level.

Again, last week I would have said England would go out in the quarter-finals, but, having watched them toil to draw with the USA, I seriously doubt they will make it out of the group.